Introduction: How do we deal with differences among members in the
church? I recall being a member of a church constitution and bylaws
committee and being told that our job was to decide on the
qualifications of members of an administrative committee. The
suggestions were that we needed a certain number of people who lived
in various geographical areas, we needed a certain number of people
of a certain gender, we needed a certain number of people of a
certain race, we needed a certain number of people who were employees
of the church and a certain number of people who were not. This made
me scratch my head and wonder about our goal. Was our goal to bring
a diverse group of people together? Or, was it to bring together a
group of people who knew something about the task at hand – which was
administration? What should be our goal? Does the Bible speak to the
issue of diversity? Let’s dive in and find out!
- Body Language
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. What is the common element in
all our spiritual work? (God. God is behind all of our
genuine spiritual efforts.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:7. If someone said that the Holy
Spirit was giving them personal insight in finding gold,
what would you think? (You should have some questions. The
“gifts of the Spirit” are given for the common good of the
church. They are to be a blessing to all.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. Who is in charge of giving
these various gifts to the church? (God. God is in charge
of deciding who gets what gift.)
- Let’s go back to my committee assignment of finding
persons with a specific gender, race, age, employment
status or geographical location to serve on the
committee. How does that fit what we just read about
spiritual gifts? (What is described in the verses we
have just read is much different than the criteria
given to me.)
- Should we be selecting people based on their
spiritual gifts, and not on these other
- Are the two sets of criteria mutually exclusive?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. What level of importance
are race, social status and job status given in
determining the composition of the church?
(Considerations of race, social and employment status
are irrelevant according to this text.)
- Look again at verse 12. What is the goal of all
of these diverse spiritual gifts? (Unity. One
- Read Galatians 3:26-29. From time to time I see the
slogan, “Seek diversity.” That certainly was my committee
assignment. Is that slogan consistent or inconsistent with
this text? (Diversity with unity in the church is a
result, not a goal. Almost 30 years ago I got “in hot
water” in a church because I cast the deciding vote for a
dark-skinned man to be the Lay Pastor. I voted that way
because I felt strongly impressed by the Holy Spirit.
These days the pressure comes in the opposite direction –
to select elders because they have a dark skin. All those
years ago I refused to vote based on skin color; and I
still feel reluctant to do that today.)
- If you intend to select people of a certain race,
gender or job status to hold positions in the church,
are you then discriminating on that basis? (I think
so. Galatians 3:28 teaches us that those distinctions
should not make any difference in the church. Our
slogan should be “seek all.” If you seek and welcome
all, without reference to race, gender or job status,
then you will have diversity. My local church is
very diverse. Although I know that is partially a
product of its location, I like to think that it is
primarily because there is a consensus among our
members that we seek all because we do not
discriminate against any.)
- Let’s go back to 1 Corinthians 12. Read 1 Corinthians
12:14-16. What spiritual problem do you think exists with
this foot and this ear? (They are either jealous of the
spiritual gifts given to others, or they are ashamed of
their own gift.)
- Do you have feet and ears in your church?
- How do you cure “foot and ear” disease? (Read 1
Corinthians 12:17-20. Paul provides two reasons why
feet and ears should get over their unhappiness with
their gifts: your gift is important and your gift is
given to you by God.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:21-22. Now we have the problem that
the feet and hands are told they are not needed. What is
the cause of this disease of the body? (This is pride.
People who have certain spiritual gifts are swelled up
with pride of position.)
- What does the Bible say about the “weaker” gifts?
(They are indispensable.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:23-25. What is Paul teaching us
here? How can we give “special honor” to the “less
honorable” parts? (When I’m preaching, the people
operating the sound system and running the computer slide
show are “indispensable” to the sermon. If I do a good
job, I automatically get “honored,” but they do not. Paul
seems to say, “Be sure they get honored too.)
- Let’s revisit the “diversity” issue just a moment.
From time to time I am told that we should make
leadership decisions with an eye to age, gender or
race to show the importance of a specific group in
our church. Do verses 23-25 speak to this issue? (The
general tenor of 1 Corinthians 12 is to avoid making
decisions based on criteria other than spiritual
gifts. But verses 23-25 seem to add a new
consideration. If some part of the body feels
“dishonored” this suggests that “special honor” may
- Body Power
- Read Matthew 20:20-21. When you are looking for a
promotion at work, would you like help from “mom?”
- What is “mom” requesting of Jesus? (To give her sons
the top two positions in His coming kingdom.)
- Why would mom ask for that?
- Read Matthew 20:22. Who is the “we” that answers Jesus?
(The sons! The story now reveals that the “boys” (James
and John – Mark 1:19) were standing around while “mom”
made her request for them.)
- If you were Jesus, how would you react to the boys
letting “mom” ask for their promotion?
- Jesus says the top leaders in His kingdom have to be
good drinkers. What is Jesus talking about? (In
Matthew 26 we read of Jesus’ struggle the night
before His crucifixion. In Matthew 26:39-42 Jesus
asks that this “cup” be taken from Him if that is
possible. The cup is Jesus’ suffering and death.)
- Did mom and the boys understand the “cup” that
they were so willing to drink?
- Read Matthew 20:23. Who is in charge of selecting leaders
in Jesus’ kingdom?
- Is that also true in your church? (This shows the
problem. Mom and the boys want to lead. Jesus says
the Father in Heaven will choose the leaders. This
fits perfectly with our prior discussion about how
God also decides on our spiritual gifts.)
- Read Matthew 20:24. How did the rest react to this “power
grab” by James, John and mom? Is part of their reaction
due to the fact they did not think of this first? (They
all displayed the same attitude – they wanted to lead.
They wanted the honor.)
- Is that your attitude?
- Read Matthew 20:25-28. What is the proper role of a
- Should this cool our desire to lead?
- What lesson does this teach us about selecting
leaders? (This reinforces the lesson we learned
earlier: leaders should be selected based on
spiritual gifts. This is not about power, it is about
service. Real leaders use those gifts to serve. We
are not to be “decorating” our leadership posts based
on gender, race, age, location, etc. The church is
not some sort of power showcase, it is a place of
- Friend, examine your attitude. Do you seek a leadership
position because you seek power and honor? Do you think
you are entitled to lead because of your job, your race or
your gender? Do you get upset when you lose your “power?”
The Bible teaches that leadership and “offices” are about
our spiritual gifts and using them to build up the church.
In this building, all positions are important and all are
to reflect God’s choice.
- Next week: Supporting Our Leaders.