Several weeks ago I was talking with Carla’s brother who is a pastor in California. He told me about a church he had visited in Hawaii, which was a very rapidly growing church. While there, he observed that whenever someone shared that they had become a Christian, the whole church cheered and there was great joy in everyone in the church. He inquired about this and the pastor told him that they make a point of teaching everyone in the church that no matter what task they do, it is significant to people coming to Christ. So whenever someone comes to the Lord, they all rejoice because they all have a sense that they have had a hand in it. The phrase they use is that “every task is attached to a soul.” When he told me about this, I thought, “what a wonderful concept!” This is something that should be taught in every church and is relevant for the work of building the kingdom in Rosenort. I also immediately thought of this commissioning service and of Ray’s plan to become involved in missionary service and so would like to think about the idea with you this morning as we commission Ray.
There are two important points to think about in regard to the idea that every task is attached to a soul.
The first point is that every task is important and has its place. Scripture teaches this in many places.
I Corinthians 12 is probably the passage which is most clear and I would like to refer to verses 14-28. If you have your Bible, please turn to the passage and let me remind you of what it says there. The concern in I Corinthians 12 was that there were some people who were lifting the gift of tongues above all the other gifts. They thought that because they could speak in tongues that this was the sign of their spirituality and that everyone should speak in tongues. Paul is very careful to point out that there is one body, and that that one body has many parts.
Notice this argument in verse 14 where he writes, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” The first point we note is that there is great diversity in the body of Christ. The gifts that God has given for the functioning of the church are many and various. There are not just evangelistic missionaries or teaching preachers. What is needed to proclaim the gospel and teach people the way of Christ involves a great variety of gifts and abilities.
Secondly, we notice that each different part is valuable. Verse 17 says, “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?” This verse is simply the climax of the argument showing the importance of each part.
Furthermore, notice that this diversity and the value of each part is by God’s design. Paul writes in 12:18, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” What a wonder to realize that it is God who has placed all this diversity in the church.
Also, please take note that among the variety of gifts given in verse 28 is the gift of being “able to help others.”
So from I Corinthians 12 we learn about the diversity which God has placed in the body of Christ. He has given many gifts, including the gift of helps.
Another passage which also speaks about the importance of a variety of tasks in the church is I Corinthians 3:5-9 where we learn that there are those who plant the seed and those who water the seed. Again it is important to note the diversity of tasks in the building of the kingdom and the importance of each task.
This image is important for us as a church. How does a person come to Christ? We so often focus on the one who shared the gospel and prayed with them to receive Christ, but there are so many more people who contribute significantly to this result.
How does a person come to Christ through a church? Would the person have come to Christ if someone hadn’t been a friend? Would they have felt welcomed if the ushers hadn’t helped them find a seat in a friendly way and made sure that they were comfortable? Would they have known what was happening without the work of the person typing and folding the bulletin? Would they have been able to listen if the trustees, janitors and ushers hadn’t helped create an environment conducive to listening? Would they have heard the word without the musicians and preachers? Would they have known the love of Christ without the person who invited them for lunch or the person who gave a friendly greeting and took time to talk to them when they met them in town the following week. There are a great variety of tasks and every task is important. It is truly significant to recognize that every task is attached to a soul.
Ray, the same thing is true in the ministry that you are going to be involved in. How does a person come to Christ through radio ministry? We often think about the person who hosts the radio show or the people who do the follow-up as the real evangelists, but what would happen if people did not contribute financially to buy the broadcast equipment in the first place? Would the radio personality be on the air without the work of the manager who finds the right people to do the shows and schedules programs and makes sure that there is a good balance of programming. How would the listener communicate need if there was no one on the phone at the front desk, or answering the mail. And, in your case, how would a clear signal go out to the listener if a technician did not make sure that everything was humming along smoothly? So once again it is clear that every task is important and every task is attached to a soul.
I spoke with a friend of mine, Paul Meisner, who has been a teacher for Wycliffe in the Philippians for many years. I asked him about the concept of supporting roles in the work of evangelism and he told me that when they as a couple realized that they could use their gifts of teaching for the furtherance of the gospel they rejoiced greatly that they could be missionaries. Ray, we rejoice with you that you have gifts to offer for the building of the kingdom and want to encourage you to recognize the great value of the gift you have because as we have seen, every task is attached to a soul.
But there is another aspect that we want to give you as a challenge. The friend I mentioned a moment ago, Paul Meisner, also told me that during their many years of ministry they learned that the people who were most effective were those who went to the mission field not simply to teach or to fly a plane. Effective missionaries were those who recognized that what they were doing was part of the larger picture of getting the Bible into the hands of those who needed to hear the gospel. What he meant was that the most effective missionaries were those who recognized that their particular task was attached to a soul.
If people went out just to teach or to fly a plane without a commitment to the souls they were ultimately reaching, their missionary service was not nearly as effective. Those who knew that their contribution was valuable for the ultimate work of reaching people were committed, and willing to go the extra mile.
This too is important for all of us in whatever ministry we are involved in. If we come to church for ourselves, or even just to do what we do best, we will do the minimum, and not contribute all we could. If we recognize that our work is attached to souls who are coming to God, we will work with our whole heart and offer our part as a significant part of the whole.
I want to give you this challenge as well Ray. It may be difficult to see the value of language school if all you focus on is technical work. In your technical work, once you are on the field, there will be discouraging days. If you see yourself as only a technician, it will be difficult to overcome these hurdles. If, on the other hand, you remember that your task is attached to souls and that you are building God’s kingdom, you will have God’s strength to not only make it through the tough times, but you will also be able to contribute significantly to God’s kingdom.
Earlier I mentioned the passage in I Corinthians 3 which talks about watering and planting. It is significant to note that in I Corinthians 3:8 Paul says that “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose…” No matter what our task, ultimately our purpose is the same. It is not to have clean pews or a neatly folded bulletins or to build a great radio station. The Bible reveals that one purpose in many places and I would like to remind you of just one passage in that regard. II Corinthians 5:18-20 says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
A man came to a construction site, where stonemasons were working. The man said to one, "What are you doing?"
The stonemason said, "You can see, I'm chipping a stone."
The man walked over to another mason and said, "What are you doing?"
He answered, "I'm building a wall."
The man walked over to a third mason and said, "What are you doing?"
This mason answered, "I am building a cathedral."
All three were doing the same thing, but what a difference perspective makes!
Ray, as you go out to prepare and then serve, we as a congregation want to encourage you to remember that every task is attached to a soul. We recognize the value of what you have to offer with your particular gifts and we want to challenge you to always remember that what you are doing is part of the task of bringing people to the Lord. We want to wish you God’s blessing with the words found in Jeremiah 29:11 - “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”