The church was once the handmaid of the world. She taught rulers and nations the unchanging laws of God by day and confronted Leviathan with her children by night.
She was a singer of Psalms, an evangelist, a mender of broken hearts, a comfort to the dying and a magistrate from whom we sought true wisdom and justice.
She was like the old-time family doctor who could mend a broken toe, comfort a child with a fever, or sober up the town drunk.
Does anyone remember when having a baby was something your average family doctor could deal with? Today, giving birth might involve the gynaecologist, an obstetrician, a maternity nurse, a sonographer, various government community nurses, your local GP, and some anaesthetist guy with a ponytail and a pork pie hat.
Your sonographer can take the ultrasound but can’t tell you what the ultrasound means. Instead, she’ll send you back to your GP, who’ll explain the results. Your gynaecologist can do the prenatal screenings, but you’ll have to speak to your obstetrician about the post-natal care you’ll need from your friendly OB-GYN nurse.
Kenneth Williams put it well when he said,
We are getting better and better at less and less. Pretty soon, we will we be brilliant at nothing.
Today, the church treasurer may know all about church insurance but nothing about his next door neighbour. The Pastor may be an expert in marketing but is all at sea when it comes to comforting a young mother in her grief. The worship leader is a modern specialist who can lift the congregation to dizzying emotional heights in realms unknown but has never shared Jesus with anybody. And the church cleaner is the only person who knows where the mop and bucket is.
Everything has been sundered from everything else, and everything has grown cold. Soon we shall hear of specialists dividing the tune from the words of a song, on the grounds that they spoil each other; and I did once meet a man who openly advocated the separation of almonds and raisins. This world is all one wild divorce court.
There’s a line running through the Old Testament that traces man’s movement from infancy in Adam to the glory days of Israel and the mature manhood of King Solomon – a type of the complete man to come (1 Kings 4:30).
Somewhere in the middle, you have the book of Judges, which looks like the chaotic years of a teenager in a high school playground with every geek, sporto and cool kid set apart in his or her tribe and each doing what is right in their own eyes.
But in King Solomon, you have an architect, a merchant, a peacemaker (1 Kings 4:24), an economist, a botanist, a sage, and a judge who ruled with justice and wisdom. He also knew how to woo the fairer sex. He was your consummate all-rounder. A neat guy.
But there’s a criticism sometimes levelled at a guy like Solomon, that he’s a “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
The complete saying, written by Robert Greene in his book, Greene’s Groats-Worth of Wit in 1592 is actually this,
A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better
than a master of one.
Intended as a compliment, the phrase means that a person is a generalist rather than a specialist. He is admired because he is versatile and skilful at many things.
While there is an essential need for people to be skilled and equipped in some areas of life over others, and while it is true that we are all gifted differently by God, Greene’s original quote is more in keeping with the goal of the gospel than is our modern infatuation with the specialist.
God calls us to grow in grace and knowledge and wisdom so that we may,
…be complete and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)
Every good work. A shepherd of God’s people should be skilled in shepherding, but he should also be skilled in fathering, in prayer and in the preaching and teaching of God’s word. The money man should be a man of precision and integrity. He must be able to count. But he should also be the kind of man who knows what money is for.
Okay, so we are not all gifted to the same degree, and I’m certainly not advocating that a 16-year-old schoolgirl be given the responsibilities of a battle-hardened front-line soldier in leading the troops into worship. The Bible gives us very clear lines regarding the maturity and qualifications of those who serve in the ministry of the church.
But if there is anything that the fumbling teenage Apostles Peter (John 18:10) and John (Luke 9:54-55) taught us, it’s that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly until, by reason of use (Hebrews 5:14), we develop the wisdom and stature of the mature man or woman in Christ.
Give the organist her due. Let one part of the body serve here and another there. But let’s not neglect the call to become increasingly fit for every good work.
Let us delight in serving the body wherever we find it, in whatever way we can, and not grow stale or stagnant or lazy, thinking we can hand what God has given to us over to the self-styled expert.
Find your groove and serve. But make it your ambition to grow in grace and maturity so that you may serve more and more, for the building up of the saints, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
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