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Churches are busy communities. When you pass by the church buildings in Caversham they may not give that impression, but all of our churches are engaged energetically in serving the community. We believe that that’s what God wants us to do, and it takes a large number of people to make it happen.
My reason for saying that is that we often draw attention to the name of the priest, pastor or minister of a church, and that might give the impression that that person does it all! However, that is not how our churches work. Every church needs teachers, worship leaders, musicians, singers, youth leaders, administrators, treasurers, caterers, welcomers, carers, cleaners, preachers and people to look after the buildings – and that’s only the start of it! Churches are made up of lots of busy, dedicated people and we should thank God for each one of them.
In the Bible St Paul compared the church with a body. This wasn’t Paul’s bright idea. The philosopher Plato had previously written about the life of the city being like a body, and Paul probably took the idea from him. It’s a powerful image when applied to the church because it makes it clear that every Christian is a member of the church community and has a crucial part to play. Paul says how stupid it would be if a foot complained that it didn’t really belong to the body because it wasn’t a hand! God doesn’t want any of us to have inferiority complexes. But neither does he want us to have superiority complexes and he mocks the idea of an eye looking down at the hand and proudly asserting, “I don’t need you.” The fact is that we all desperately need one another.
We thank God for the gift of our priests, pastors and ministers. I believe that we have a superb group of leaders and they not only bring a great deal of experience to the churches in Caversham but also the benefit of many years of training. But without the prayers, the gifts and the enthusiastic support of all the members of the church they might as well go somewhere else. Church leaders are enablers, encouragers, teachers, and trainers – but we should never expect them to do everything.
It’s good for all of us to look carefully at ourselves and reflect on the gift that we can contribute. Paul is absolutely clear that everyone has such a gift. They might be in full public view or hidden away. They might be noisy or quiet. They might be practical gifts or reflective ones. Whatever your gift may be, it has been given to you by God, and it is vital for the building up of the church.
I am excited to see the churches of Caversham engaging in the life of the community in so many different ways. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to this world because of God’s love for everyone. Perhaps, at times, we give the impression that God only loves the church – but it’s not true and never has been. God loves our whole community and welcomes everyone to himself and that amazing truth will only become clear to everyone as we all work together with ever increasing determination and effectiveness.
Jonathon Edwards, Transitional Minister at Caversham Baptist Church.