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!

  1. Body Language

    1. 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.)

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

        1. Should we be selecting people based on their
          spiritual gifts, and not on these other

        2. Are the two sets of criteria mutually exclusive?

      2. 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.)

        1. Look again at verse 12. What is the goal of all
          of these diverse spiritual gifts? (Unity. One

    4. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    5. 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.)

      1. Do you have feet and ears in your church?

      2. 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.)

    6. 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.)

      1. What does the Bible say about the “weaker” gifts?
        (They are indispensable.)

    7. 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.)

      1. 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
        be appropriate.)

  2. Body Power

    1. Read Matthew 20:20-21. When you are looking for a
      promotion at work, would you like help from “mom?”

      1. What is “mom” requesting of Jesus? (To give her sons
        the top two positions in His coming kingdom.)

      2. Why would mom ask for that?

    2. 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.)

      1. If you were Jesus, how would you react to the boys
        letting “mom” ask for their promotion?

      2. 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.)

        1. Did mom and the boys understand the “cup” that
          they were so willing to drink?

    3. Read Matthew 20:23. Who is in charge of selecting leaders
      in Jesus’ kingdom?

      1. 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.)

    4. 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.)

      1. Is that your attitude?

    5. Read Matthew 20:25-28. What is the proper role of a

      1. Should this cool our desire to lead?

      2. 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

    6. 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.

  3. Next week: Supporting Our Leaders.