by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” — Mother Teresa

July, 2002

Last month, a youth choir from Texas performed at our sister church, Immanuel United Methodist. I confess that, when they initially contacted us, my reaction was, “What happened, did all the big churches say no?” I wondered why they were bothering with little Maplewood or Immanuel. Then, on the night of the performance, Rev. Rick Hunter, pastor of Zion City Church, another of the small churches that had sponsored the performance, asked me if there was any cost involved. He wanted me to know Zion Church was willing to provide its share of the expenses. I told Rev. Hunter to speak to our pastor, Rev. Allen Ladage, but I was thinking, “This group is from a great big church near Houston. They've got 1500 members. What could they possibly need from a little church like one of ours?”

I’m sure the widow in Jesus' time might have wondered the same thing when she gave her two small copper coins: “What could the temple possibly need with this small offering?” But Jesus said to his disciples, “‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21:3b-4 NIV). The widow didn’t have much to give but that didn’t stop her from giving all she had.

Paul recognized the same principle. He knew that “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” (I Cor. 12:12a NIV). None of us should ever say, “‘. . . I do not belong to the body,’” (I Cor. 12:16b NIV). And no one should ever say to us, “‘I don’t need you!’” (I Cor. 12:21b NIV).

If he had been a real person, the traveler in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) would probably never have imagined that he might need help from a Samaritan or be indebted to one. Certainly, the Jews who heard the parable for the first time had no use for Samaritans, nor had they imagined themselves in the position of the victim in the parable. Jews didn’t need anything from Samaritans. Thus, it came as a shock to Jesus’ listeners to hear about a Samaritan helping a Jew.

The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at Jacob’s well never expected a Jew to ask her for anything either (John 4:4-30). But he asked her for water anyway and in the process of asking, he also offered her “‘living water’” (John 4:10). And she was so excited, she told everyone she knew about “‘. . . a man who told me everything I ever did.’” (John 4:29a NIV).

It doesn’t matter whether we're the First Church of the Big City or the Little Church of the Small Town; we’re still called to serve God and to minister to God’s people. The folks from the big church in Texas received something from us: a place to perform and a small but appreciative audience. I don’t know why they didn’t perform at some big church somewhere but I do know they chose us. All four churches that sponsored the performance—Maplewood, Immanuel, Zion, and Fry, together—aren’t as big as the one big church in Texas. But we were able to give something to them; and in return, they gave something to us: a marvelous night of music. Each of our four small churches ministers to people who aren’t served by anyone else. We’re all unique in our own ways.

You and I are unique too. Each of us is called to be a part of God’s church. Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Cor. 12:27). Someone needs a gift that only our church can give. Someone needs a gift that only you can give. They may not seem to need anything, least of all from us, but they do. They need God’s love. They need forgiveness of their sins. They need Christ. They need you. Will you give them your gift?

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 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 cease to be part of the body. 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? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (I Cor. 12:14-20 NIV.)

Copyright © 2002 by David Phelps