Some of my most enjoyable moments in ministry are when God aligns discussions and teachings together to form a specific theme for a group of people. These moments often happen without planning or intentionality on my part! Praise Jesus for His sovereignty and desire to glorify Himself through His faithfulness! I recently experienced one of these moments in our youth ministry. We had one week where God arranged for us to be studying two different passages on Sunday & Wednesday, but they both taught on the same message. Jesus wanted us to learn about the importance of enjoying diversity and unity as His Body.
A portion of our youth ministry participates in Bible Quiz, and for our study this year, we have been going through the letter of 1 Corinthians. We had an especially fruitful dialogue together after reading through 1 Corinthians chapter 12:
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
In this chapter, Paul has been talking about spiritual gifts, and how the Spirit distributes different kinds of gifts to each of us. This leads him directly into verse 12 and the picture of how the human body illustrates this balance of both unity and diversity! Despite there being so many different parts of our body, they all fit together to work in unison for the same function.
Our goal as the Church must follow the example God has given us in His very own existence. In the splendor of the Trinity, we see three distinct persons with different functions, yet who works in complete unity as one God. Just as God communicates that we are made in His image, He intends for His bride to function in the same way. Even though we have different gifts, personalities, passions, and appearances, all children of God must desire to work together for the same purpose.
In Acts 2:42, we see the first Christians devote themselves to being strong in fellowship. These people had just received this new game-changing power from the Holy Spirit that enabled them to live in supernatural unity. Paul reminds us again here in 1 Corinthians that all of us receive this same Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit alone that can make us one.
As we continued to read in chapter 12, we received instruction that jumps right into one of the most consistent issues that we (especially students) deal with: comparison.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Again, Paul is reminding us that we have different strengths and gifts for a reason. God knew what He was doing when He made each one of us! He has purpose for our diversity. We see here that we cannot look at the people around us and try to compare ourselves to them. Far too often, we will think we’re not as gifted as someone else and believe the lie that we don’t have anything to offer. Or, we compare the other direction and look down on other people! We will slip into our own pride and believe that we don’t need the help of anyone else. Both of these mindsets of comparison are far from the heart of God. It’s amazing how much our identity in Jesus truly does impact our ability to live well in fellowship with others. We know that our greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. As we give our hearts to God and allow Him to pour His complete love into us, it satisfies every insecurity we may have. This intimacy with Jesus builds our healthy confidence in who He made us to be. His truth and grace forms our identity and helps free us from the desire to compare . It is then that we can love our neighbor as ourselves.
This then led into our second study of the week where God built in another reminder of our need for healthy community in His body. In our weekly student ministry services, we have been studying chapter by chapter through Paul’s letter to the Romans. Chapter 12 in Romans also talks about the necessity of celebrating diversity while maintaining unity:
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourfaith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
I love it! Paul is blunt in his instruction: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought!” Again, we are all members of ONE body. We have the same purpose: point to Jesus in all we do. Our goal is to make disciples of Jesus. God’s Word is clear that people will know that we are Christians by our love for one another! In this supernatural love for one another, we are to celebrate the different functions of each person. Moreover, we are to recognize and affirm that we need every gift from every person to fulfill God’s purpose for His Church properly.
I desire to be more aware and intentional in looking for opportunities for people to serve. I admit as a minister, it can be too easy for me to do so many things myself. It is vital that I acknowledge the strengths and potential of the students, leaders, and parents that are around me.
Lord, I thank you for Your faithfulness and strategic messages to me. May Your Spirit continue to increase in me, and my selfishness continue to decrease. May I not think too highly of myself but instead live out the command to operate as one body with many parts. We thank you for the diversity of people and gifts in Your Church along with the unity that Your Spirit provides for us.
**Josh Kestner is the newest member of the SMAT. He currently serves as the Student Ministry Pastor at CLI Church in Salem, VA. He has been in full-time ministry with college, high school, and middle school students for the past five years. He also is a football coach at Andrew Lewis Middle School in Salem. Josh is a graduate of Virginia Tech and has a Master’s degree in Youth and Family Ministry/Counseling from Denver Seminary. Josh has been married to Megan for seven years and has two children: Caleb and McKensie.