“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
7 times in 3 verses, the nature of our Christian faith is emphasized: one, one, one, one, one, one, one. Later in this passage, Ephesians builds on the body of Christ image by saying we are “joined and knit together.” In the same way that muscles and nerves and tendons hold our bodies together, we are connected. We are one.
But we are also separate and different. We look different and act different; we think differently and feel differently. We speak different languages, literally and figuratively. We are good at different things and bad at different things.
We are one, but we are different.
That’s a pretty tricky arrangement. It means we compliment each other… but also get on each other’s nerves. It means we can do more together than we could apart… but also that we might have very different opinions on what it is we should do.
If you’re a part of a church, I bet you’ve felt this already. You might have had a new idea discouraged (or even dismissed). You might feel unsure about how you fit in (if at all). You may find some folks difficult to get along with (let alone work with).
Yep. That’s real. But you know what’s also real?
One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.
So how can we be different and also work together as one?
First of all, by the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Period. We start by praying together, worshiping together, and listening to God together. Those corporate spiritual disciplines allow us to stand firm on our most important common ground: faith in Jesus Christ.
After that comes a more practical thing: church structure. In our United Methodist system we organize our churches in a particular way that allows for a lot of lay (non-ordained-people) involvement. The only trouble might be if you’re unfamiliar with that structure – if you have an idea for the buildings or the children’s programming or worship, but you don’t know where to take that idea. To that point, in church on Sunday we introduced the chairs and members of our various committees:
- Church Council (the guiding committee of the church): Terry Gribble (email@example.com)
- Worship (planning and preparing worship services): Joslyn Parker Booth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Trustees (caring for and making best use of our facilities): Charlie McCowan (email@example.com)
- SPRC (“Staff Pastor Parish Relations” – guiding our Staff and Pastor in their work): Brent Burch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Finance (providing oversight and planning for our finances): Mark Graham (email@example.com)
- Missions (planning ways for our church to serve others): Mary Ann Carlson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Beth Andreu (email@example.com)
In a church where we are different but ONE, we need a system for working together. In the United Methodist Church, we have a system indeed. We even (believe it or not) have a committee on committees. The pastor is the chair of “Nominations,” that meets for several months out of the year to think and pray about who should be invited to serve where. Then, with all the members officially voted in, the committees can meet for their important work.
It’s a very structured system. You might say it’s… methodical. But what starts in a structured way is meant to grow into something organic.
In my 8 years of being a pastor, I’ve noticed that committees are also small groups. People get to know each other: strangers become acquaintances, and sometimes acquaintances become friends. They learn each other’s personalities and skills. As those relationships build – as more people in the church know each other – ideas don’t wait for the official committee meeting. Mark talks with Darry about an electrical issue; Jan chats with Pam about a potential praise song.
And after a while, we begin to be… one.
You are meant to be a part of this one – you, as different as you might be. Come and join us.