A CONGREGATION'S GREATEST ASSET
Let's suppose that God spoke to this congregation directly this morning, and that He said this to us:
"You are growing in your faith in my Son. Your confidence in His death, His resurrection, and my power is increasing. You are opening your lives to my Word and my Spirit. You are
praying with a new earnestness. Because you are placing more faith in me and less faith in
yourselves, your potential is growing. Therefore, I will bless you with a tremendous asset. This
asset will increase your outreach. Your capacity to do my work will increase. Your vision will
grow. This asset will be an open door for serving me in ways that will amaze all who see you."
If God gave us that asset, what would it be? Someone says, "It is money." With the right
attitude and proper stewardship, money can be an asset. But having money will not create those
blessings and opportunities.
Someone says, "It is removing our debt." That would be an asset. But no indebtedness will not
create those blessings and opportunities.
What is this internal asset that God could give us? Let's ask God.
- "God, what is this incredible asset?"
- God responds, "The great asset I give you that creates great potential for outreach and
ministry is diversity."
- "Wait a minute, God. Let me get this straight. You want us to believe that
diversity is an asset that creates extraordinary potential?"
- "God, diversity is not asset or potential--diversity is handicap."
- "Diversity means that we are not alike within the congregation; that we
are in fact very different."
- "The fact that we are different in our membership is a problem, or at
least the beginning of problems; it is disadvantage, not advantage."
- If you are convinced that diversity in a congregation is problem rather than an
asset, may I ask how you formed that conclusion? Why do you think diversity
to be a spiritual liability?
- I anticipate that most of us would say that the goal of the church is to be
uniform and to produce uniformity.
- If the goal of Christ's church is uniformity, then diversity would be a
- From the beginning of Jesus' ministry, diversity was used to generate opportunity to
achieve God's greatest purposes.
- How many intimate disciples did Jesus have? Even the children would reply
that Jesus had twelve disciples.
- In those twelve men, do you see uniformity or diversity?
- You see incredible diversity--I could easily illustrate that diversity in
- To me, the most striking illustration of their diversity is seen in Matthew
the tax collector and Simeon the Zealot.
- Matthew, prior to becoming one of the twelve, collected taxes
from Jews for the Roman government.
- Because he collected taxes for the government that
destroyed Israel's independence and stationed an occupation
force in their country, Matthew was regarded to be a traitor
ito his own nation by many of his fellow Jews.
- Many Jews were insulted by Jesus choosing a tax collector
to be one of the twelve.
- Simeon, before becoming one of the twelve, belonged to the
Zealots, a radical religious/political group that believed Jews who
collected taxes for the Roman government were committing
treason against God.
- They believed that God expected them to assassinate Jews
who assisted the Roman government.
- So Zealots killed tax collectors when it was possible.
- Thus Simeon would have killed Matthew prior to discipleship.
- How could Jesus select as two of the twelve men that were
that different? That defies our expectation and
- Matthew and Simeon had nothing in common before they
followed Jesus, and the only thing they had in common as
disciples was that they both followed Jesus.
- In fact, neither Matthew or Simeon would have had much in
common with the other 10 disciples.
- Jesus deliberately creating such diversity within the twelve declares an important lesson that we must see and understand clearly.
- The diversity that Jesus established within the discipleship clearly emphasizes his determination to save all kinds of people.
- Peter could never have worked effectively with the people
Matthew could identify with, and Matthew could never identify
with and effectively communicate to the people that Simeon could
- If we understand the diversity Jesus deliberately created within the twelve, it should not surprise us that he deliberately designed the church to be diverse.
- Is the church by divine design to be diverse? Is diversity within the church the intent of God, Christ, and the Spirit?
- Look at what the book of Acts clearly reveals to us about the establishment and
growth of the church under the specific guidance of Christ and the Spirit.
- From day one in Acts 2 it existed in a complex diversity.
- The first converts were made from the people who came to
Jerusalem to observe the Passover.
- Those who first heard and responded to the good news
about Jesus' resurrection included Jews from Galilee and
Jews from Judea--who had major differences; Jews from
Palestine and Jews from non-Jewish nations--which had
even greater differences; and converted non-Jews, who had
even more differences.
- Then, under the direct guidance of Jesus and the Spirit, the
gospel was extended to non-Jews who already believed in
God in Acts 10.
- Then in Acts 11 we learn that the gospel was extended to
non-Jews who did not believe in God, and from Acts 13 that
God commissioned two of his best preachers to work in the
Roman world among non-Jews who worshipped idols.
- Within a few years after the church was established, it was
incredibly diverse--more diverse than any of us have ever
known it in our lifetimes.
- In fact, congregations were so diverse that it was common for the
congregations to have problems accepting their own diversity.
- Romans 12:3-8 is clear documentation of that fact.
- Within your diversity, don't be concerned about your
own significance and importance.
- Focus your concern on a desire to have sound
judgment in using your God-given potential for faith.
- A congregation, in its diversity, is like the physical
body of a person.
- There are many different body parts that have totally
different functions, completely different purposes,
and dissimilar abilities.
- Determine your gift that God has given you as a part
of the body and function diligently doing what God
enabled you to do.
- 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 documents God's design for a congregation
to be diverse in even greater detail.
- Paul told the diverse congregation at Corinth that the church
and the physical body are alike because the church exists as
Christ's body in this world.
- It is formed from Jews and non-Jews, from slaves and
people who are free--you do not find any greater differences
than are found in those two groupings.
- If you do not have diversity, you do not have a body because
a body must function in many distinctly different ways to
- God placed each person in the body; our differences come
from God; and God has a use for each one of us within the
body that will bring health and strength to the body.
- God never intended for all of us to be alike doing the same
- Allow me to give a clear, practical illustration of the blessing of diversity.
- David Chadwell has one body, and all its parts are interconnected and mutually
- My eyeball and my thumb have absolutely nothing in common as body parts.
- They have nothing in common in their individual functions.
- Their purposes are not even remotely similar.
- They are not even made of the same tissue and certainly do not have the
same structure--an eyeball and a thumb are about as dissimilar as you can
- My eyeball could arrogantly say, "The body would be in a terrible fix if it did
not have me."
- "I am the body's light."
- "I am the body's guidance system."
- "Without me, the body can't function."
- The thumb is a very low-profile member of our bodies.
- We use it constantly without realizing that we are using it.
- Our thumbs probably find themselves in more critical, dangerous
situations every single day than any other part of our body.
- Yet, we take thumbs so for granted that we never consider how important
a thumb is.
- Tape your thumb securely to the palm of your hand for a half a day.
- See how much you miss it; see how often you think about
it-not having your thumb available.
- You will be astounded at the hundreds of things that you
cannot do within only four or five hours, things that you
constantly do without even thinking.
- My eyeball and my thumb are very essential parts of my body.
- But the only two things my eyeball and my thumb have in common is
that they are both a part of my body and they both are sustained by the
same life force.
- But my thumb and my eyeball need each other and are dedicated to
taking care of each other.
- If some trash gets in my eye, my thumb is instantly there to be of
- My eye is constantly giving guidance to my thumb as it daily
maneuvers through dangerous situations.
To see the incredible blessing of diversity, look at your own body. When all members of your body are healthy and strong, your body is incredibly capable.
As a congregation, the greatest practical blessing God can give us is diversity. But we cannot accept or use that blessing without knowledgeable faith and understanding. The more diverse we are, the more God can use us for all His purposes. The more diverse we are, the more people we can touch with the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Thank God everyone in the congregation is not exactly like me. Thank God everyone is not exactly like you. Because you and I are so evil? No. Because if everyone were exactly alike, there would not be a body.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 November 1996
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