I enjoy many of the television programs that put the lives of folks in wilderness on display. I appreciate their hardiness, their willingness to endure difficult situations, and to go without conveniences many of us take for granted.
However, as much as I enjoy seeing these character traits I admire put on display in a positive light, I am dismayed at the reasoning behind such a manner of living: The desire to be completely self-sufficient, to rely upon no one but self for those things required to maintain a healthy existence — at least in their eyes.
I am further dismayed when I see these same attitudes at the local church, individual Christians who think they can get all they need to grow and flourish without the contributions and care of others. The local church, as an institution, is wholly dependent upon another — Jesus Christ her Lord.
Furthermore, it is also an institution wholly reliant upon those individuals from which she is constituted. In other words, the local church is an interdependent group of people functioning for the good of one another while being completely dependent upon Christ. I believe this is best put on display in the analogies the Apostle Paul uses when he compares the relationship individual believers have with each other and the proper functioning of the human body in 1 Corinthians 12:14-26.
In this section of scripture, the apostle is pointing to the fact that each believer is a needed part of the local assembly, placed there by the Lord in order to function cooperatively with the other members for the sake of all (1 Cor 12:18-20). I know to the average American reader this may seem uncomfortable at best and repulsive at worst, but you have been made a member of your local congregation to serve others, not yourself. Which brings me to the title of this article: I don’t want to be a pancreas.
The pancreas is a small organ found within the abdominal cavity of the human body, right behind the stomach. It is not a visible organ, yet it provides a vital function. The pancreas is actually part of two separate systems within our body: the digestive and endocrine systems. As part of the digestive system, it contributes enzymes to the small intestine, which aid in the absorption of vital nutrients. As a part of the endocrine system, it produces important hormones that are circulated throughout the body via the circulatory system.
Though it is medically possible to live without a pancreas, to do so necessitates the addition of insulin and digestive enzymes into the body via artificial means. In other words, the body is unable to maintain its health without outside influence.
Now let’s return to the idea of the local congregation being like a human body, needing each of its organs (or members) to function properly. If you are the one who has been placed within the body to serve in the capacity of the “pancreas,” what happens if you decide you would rather be a “heart” or “foot” or “mouth?” It would seem that the body might end up with an extra of something it already has and go without something it needs. Who needs three feet, two hearts, or my goodness, two mouths? No one! But everyone needs a pancreas, even your local church.
It doesn’t seem to be all that cool to be the pancreas. After all, it’s hidden behind the stomach, covered by layers of muscle and skin. And what’s more, most folks probably don’t even know what a pancreas does and maybe even if they have one or not. But I guarantee that anyone who has gone through an injury or disease that has deprived them of their pancreas can tell you, you need one, you want one, and you will notice if it’s not doing its job.
There is one last thing, though, I would like to point out about the pancreas. It cannot survive and function properly without being part of the human body. It needs the mouth to chew and swallow food, the rest of the digestive system to help break that food down into usable components, the circulatory system to deliver those nutrients, and even hands that introduced that food to the mouth. And this is just a small description of all the ways that the body is dependent upon the pancreas and the pancreas is dependent upon the body.
So in case you’re not quite getting what I am attempting to illustrate, here it is: You cannot function as a healthy Christian outside the context of the local church! You are meant for inclusion in a local assembly of believers in order that you can both be sustained and contribute to the health of others within that “body.” They need their pancreas, so get in there behind the stomach and get to work.
Lynch is pastor for Stansbury Park Baptist Church. To learn more about him or the church he serves, visit www.stansburyparkbc.org.