There are no extras in the church

As Christians, it is easy to get caught up in wanting to do more, wanting to accomplish more for the Kingdom, and sometimes even wanting more recognition. We can start to think that in God’s amazing plan we are just extras who get a little screen time when needed in order to highlight a main character. That somehow, we are less than others and when God was passing out gifts He decided we would be fillers for someone else’s story. We can read Paul’s letters and wonder why we cannot be more like him. We can read about Peter in the Gospels getting off the boat and wonder if we will have or even can have such experiences. The list goes on and on and if we are not careful we can think that somehow, we are not as good as other Christians. Now, there are things that can hinder your growth as a Christian but for now, we are going to assume that you are doing what you need to do. We are going to be on the working assumption you are a redeemed, Spirit-filled, Christ loving child of God.

I want to look at Romans 16 which is the last chapter of Romans. The book of Romans covers many great topics like predestination, the message of the Gospel, fulfilled prophecy, liberty in love, and much more. One thing that is covered that can be overlooked if we are not careful is Paul’s closing where he commends or to use modern vocabulary, he gives a shout out to some people. In the closing of this amazing book Paul names twenty-six people and says to either greet them or recognizes them for their work. We do not have the space to cover all of them and maybe that would be good to do sometime but for now, we will just briefly look at a few.

Before we do it is important to reiterate again that there are no extra’s in God’s story. There are heroes for sure that stand out and these people should inspire us and drive us to more but their abilities still come from the same God who made us all. Even at that the “hero” we see is usually flawed, broken, and has failed more often than they have succeeded. The list in chapter 16 of Romans should inspire us because these are “average” people. These were everyday grocery shopping, mall going, Starbucks drinking, trying to get by people of the first century.

First on the list is Prisca and Aquila who are actually mentioned quite a bit in the Bible. They do not have any deep stories but they are mentioned six times in the New Testament. The longest episode is in Acts 18 where this couple takes in a young man who has just come to Christ. They take him in and explain the way of God more accurately. They discipled this young man who some believe went on to write the book of Hebrews. This average ordinary couple saw a need and fulfilled that need and for that, among other things, Paul says “Everyone need to greet these people when you see them because I love them and they have always been there for me.”

Skipping down one, Paul says to greet Mary who has worked very hard for you. There are a lot of Mary’s in our churches. They are the ones who do Sunday school for the kids every week. They are the ones who come in and clean the church when nobody is around. They are the ones praying daily for our pastors and our suffering. There are people in our churches working harder than most and you would never know it because not once do they ask to be recognized for their labors but without them, we would all suffer. Think about your toes for a minute. When is the last time you thought about how valuable your toes are? I read once that your toes come in contact with the ground about seventy-five percent of the time (75%). We take that for granted and we take so many people in our churches who are much more valuable than toes for granted too. When we come across a Mary we should be saying thank you to them and letting others know that this person is vital to the growth, success, and love in our church family.

Lastly, we will look at Andronicus and Junia. There is a lot of controversy around this one because some will argue that Junia was an Apostle which would be a big deal because she was a woman. I am not going to go there right now. Rather, let us just look at what Paul says and put it into modern terms. Have you ever met someone and asked them if they so and so? They say no and you respond with “What, they are amazing how do you now know them?” We all know someone who does not get nearly enough air time in conversation but deserves it more than we do. I am talking about people that when someone says, “you are awesome” you think “I am not so and so.” That was Andronicus and Junia. Paul says that this couple us noteworthy and in the Greek that word also means “well known, respected, and admired for past achievements.” Paul says these two these two are what it is about, and all the Apostles know this. I do not know another way to explain the significance of this. The Apostles who are the big guns give credit to this couple.

I know this is a rather short version of the list Paul gives but the point is that you are someone in God’s story. Maybe you come in early or stay late to stack chairs but without chairs, new people would not know where to sit. Maybe you vacuum but without you, there would not be clean floors and that is not only a little gross but distracting to people who are looking for reasons to not pay attention. Maybe you run a little blog and feel like no one is being helped by your words but someone somewhere out there might be. Maybe you are a pastor and cannot figure out why you are not reaching people like others are but you have planted seeds that will grow into mighty trees. Maybe just maybe, the thing you do is service to and for Christ and He will make it into something more.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

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2 thoughts on “There are no extras in the church

  1. We can start to think that in God’s amazing plan we are just extras who get a little screen time when needed in order to highlight a main character.

    Complementarianism says that the role of women is to be helpers to their spouses, who are the leaders of their families and their churches. Without a man to lead, women have no lead to follow and are little more than extras on the set.

    That somehow, we are less than others and when God was passing out gifts He decided we would be fillers for someone else’s story.

    Well, obviously, since men get all the speaking roles, and women are forbidden from preaching and teaching, then women were passed over on the gifts of preaching and teaching and leading, among others. But women are nurturers, so there’s that.

    In the way that I was taught the story of Aquila and Priscilla, Aquilla was the one teaching Apollo and Priscilla was the one serving tea and cookies – or the first century equivalent thereof. After all, the Bible wouldn’t contradict itself when it says that no woman may teach or have authority over a man. (1 Timothy, I believe.)

    Junia is an interesting case. Sometimes people call her Junias (a man) and say that he was an apostle. But when they’re certain that Junia (a woman) isn’t a man, then she’s known to the apostles as a trusted ally or friend, but not one among them. I can say that Paul refers to himself as the least of the apostles, and if these two indeed are apostles and Junia is indeed a woman, then Paul ranks her more highly than himself.

    Don’t forget the first name mentioned in this section, Phoebe, the deacon of the church of Cenchreae whom Paul entrusted with the Book of Romans itself, which she took as she walked from Modern-day Kechries to Rome – it likely took a week to walk that. Not only was she given the letter itself, but likely some last-minute instruction as well. She was Paul’s benefactor, meaning that he was indebted to her as he was her client.

    But some of the less-well known stories of women in the Bible are just as interesting, sometimes all we get is a name to know that they were important somehow – even if we don’t know how. But what it really comes down to is how we want to read and teach the Bible – we can do it in such a way where we see that any and every Mary and Martha and Sarah and Elizabeth are set free to follow God’s will and work wherever – or we can say “there has not been and nor shall there ever be a woman who is an apostle, a deacon, or a pastor, so saith the Lord.” We can tell all the Marys and Marthas that their place is in the kitchen and all the Elizabeths and Sarahs that their sole focus should be having as many babies as they can while they’re young and not put it off because that’s all they’re here for.

    • Jamie, I appreciate what you shared here. You cover a lot of ground and I like that. There is a lot that has not but needs to be discussed when looking at a woman’s “role” in the church and in a family. On one hand, you have verses like 1 Cor 11:5 that clearly show that a woman can pray and make prophetic statements. He then goes on to talk about the relationship between men and women. Those two things together tell me that there is more to the story than a meets the eye. Then you have other stories in the Bible that discuss women in leadership roles as well. All that to say there is more to the conversation about the relationship between men and women than is usually preached or discussed. If you have never read any of his stuff I would recommend reading Kevin Giles. He holds to egalitarianism.

      Another big problem is that despite our best efforts we read the Bible presuppositionally. We “know” what it says and we read accordingly. This is probably my biggest challenge and why I switch translations so often. I think at some point soon (maybe) next I will write something on egalitarianism.

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