“The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. ”
1 Corinthians 12:22-26
When I was a child my Nana had a special red plate just for us grandkids. And it wasn’t a small plastic child’s plate either, it was an adult-sized, glass plate that was only used for holidays and birthdays. The rest of the year it stood upright on the bottom shelf of a curio cabinet—eye level for an eager 7-year-old—and quarantined for safe keeping.
We held that plate with great honor, it wasn’t an everyday plate, certainly there were thousands more just like in made, but in our family, it stood alone.
I wonder if that plate ever wished it was ordinary. Did it ever dream of being more than just the “holiday plate”? Did it ever fantasize it was a spoon or cup; delivering refreshing beverages and not just a placeholder for carved turkey, green bean casserole, and frog eye salad? Of course it didn’t, but the truth is that in all of our churches precious red plates, those with greater honor, see themselves as less honorable. How is it they’re missing the dignity and high calling God has given them and wishing they were ordinary day-to-day items?
Certainly there’s sin for them to own—idolatry is clearly seen—but as pastors and church leaders, there’s more we could be doing to help them see their God-given honor. Here’s a couple of ideas.
Teach Robust Ecclesiology
Paul uses the illustration of a person’s “unpresentable parts” to argue that something like the mouth, though highly visible, always heard, and never closed, is actually less honorable than other parts of the anatomy of a person. How so?
A mouth has day-to-day purpose and functionality, but some parts are for sacred times only. When a husband and wife come together sexually they’re using their bodies in God-honoring ways, the way God intended within the covenant of marriage. They don’t get everyday use, but when used they are highly enjoyed and honored.
Pastors need to teach a robust ecclesiology, showing every church member how they’re valued in the body of Christ. Far too many Christians still think of church as something you go to instead of something you are a part of—it’s more club than family. They see the man upfront as the star and themselves as the passive absorber. Showing them the beauty and complementarity of roles within the Church helps each person place themselves in their God-given role and shows them what God expects of them. It helps them answer the questions: Why did God gift me the way that He did? And emboldens them to hold claim to their calling for the good of the church and the glory of God.
Paul would exhort and encourage all of us, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10). A simple way pastors can unify and strengthen the bonds of the church is to publicly honor someone whose work is typically private. Now, I don’t mean, throw a This Is Your Life type of party. I mean, if Blake does a great job putting together the new bumper video, then publicly draw attention to it and say thank you from the front. If your face mic drops out and the sound guy successfully scrambles to get it back on, simply stop and thank the man whose work is always heard, but whose face is seldom seen.
Taking a moment to publicly thank the cleaning crew or ushers or parking lot attendants or nursery room helpers, helps the church to see the work they’re unknowingly enjoying. In this small way, I think we can begin to plant the seeds of appreciation in our members and help them appreciate things they’ve otherwise been missing.
Each week when I start off our home group with a time of prayer, I remind the people that they are free to share a scripture verse if they feel so prompted without having to sermonize it—just read it, let it stand, and allow the Spirit to apply it if God so chooses. I do this to take away the pressure to preach. Many are struck by a verse throughout their personal times of devotion, but they haven’t been given the gift of teaching, so they clam up in a group setting. Taking the weight of exposition off of their shoulders allows them to participate—and participate they do—without feeling they’re being evaluated.
Likewise, the fine china—those members of the body Paul defines as “unpresentable parts” which are used sparingly—might feel awkward coming up to encourage or help or whatever way God is using them. They may not completely understand this feeling or how to respond to it. So simply assuming their awkwardness and addressing it prior to it occurring removes that roadblock.
There are many particular things a church can do to honor their less visible members, but the bottom line is this: love like Christ. A complementary body like the church cannot stand and be the Body of Christ without self-effacing, gospel-love rooted in the righteousness of Christ; that’s the soil in which honor is grown.