Preaching and bible study don’t always make a lot of sense. I don’t mean the subject matter of preaching or bible study (although that can be confusing too). I mean the purpose of preaching can be unclear. Why do a bunch of people with a wide variety of “learning styles” and “learning interests” gather together to sit underneath the same teaching week after week? Why do we walk through books of the bible at the same pace as everyone else in our small group? Certainly there are better ways to learn the bible or theology or morality than this. Right? A recent blog post about the book of Proverbs by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, helps point us to an answer. The principle behind his answer is found all throughout the Bible too.
1 Corinthians 12 is one place where it shows up. Paul is describing the community of believers in Corinth as the body of Christ. With that picture in mind, he points out that “the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Cor 12:14-20).
So why do we insist on getting everybody together in one room to listen to the same sermon week after week? Or why does everybody in a small group read the same chapters as everyone else week after week? It’s because becoming good disciples means a lot more than becoming as informed as possible. Becoming good disciples means we sit underneath teaching together. Teaching that piques our interest, keeps our attention and stimulates our thoughts is not enough. We need this teaching while sitting alongside brothers and sisters in Christ who are equipped with the gifts God has given them. To use Paul’s anatomical analogy; the hand needs the forearm; the forearm needs the elbow; the elbow needs the bicep; the bicep needs the shoulder…you get the picture.
So if a sermon series, preaching style, or small group format (or any other quirk in the church) doesn’t “tickle your fancy” – if it seems too torso oriented to help a kneecap like yourself – you shouldn’t assume that there isn’t a reason for you to be gathered with your brothers and sisters. For the body only grows (I’m paraphrasing Eph 4:15-16 here) when every last limb, joint and ligament is working together.