Here is a synopsis of chapter 9 in the book, “Hurdling the Barriers” to church health and growth.
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4–5, ESV)
When I was a boy, I received a Mr. Potato Head as a gift for Christmas. The first Mr. Potato Head toy included things like hands, shoes, lips, ears, a nose, eyes, hats, and etcetera that you were supposed to stick into a real potato. Later, the version included a molded plastic potato with holes into which one was to stick the hands, feet, and other parts. My brother and I got kind of tired of making a real potato head with all the parts in the right place, so we mixed things up a bit. At first, we would leave some of the parts off, like the hands or the feet or the eyes. Later we would put the parts in the wrong places, making a monster potato head.
Take this picture some fifty years later as I presented a sermon on the necessity of the church using their gifts and talents collectively for the glory of God from First Corinthians Chapter 12. To make a point that people would remember, I made a four-foot-tall Mr. Potato Head, complete with hands, feet, ears, eyes, nose and mouth, which I affixed to the four-foot-tall potato using double sided adhesive. Then as I put each part on the body, I explained the importance of each doing its part, just as the Creator had designed. I also made the point at each part was essential by removing parts and switching them around. The congregation laughed a bit as I did this, but it is my hope that they would remember the main point as it regards the church. The church is the body of Christ and just as God has designed the parts of the body for the proper function of the body, He has joined every person to the local church with unique gifts and talents for the function of the whole congregation. The health of the congregation depends upon each member doing its part.
There is an old adage that twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work in the church. However, this is not the way the Lord has designed His church to function. The healthiest church will not be the church that follows the 20/80 rule. It will be the one in which all of its parishioners are actively engaged in the work of ministry. Just imagine what would happen if one-hundred percent of the congregation were filled with the Spirit and actively ministering. I venture the say that churches would be overflowing, communities would be transformed, crime would drop to unbelievable levels. The reason we might see these things is because this type of church would have hurdled the health barrier of insufficient participation.
How do churches overcome this barrier? Well, I do not believe that there are any manmade systems that will somehow bring the church to this level of participation. Like everything else, this is an issue of the heart of each parishioner. A legalistic formula will not work. In this chapter, I hope to look at the barrier, why it is there, and what steps are necessary to hurdle it.