I, Me, My!
(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
I + Me + My = The World
Know anybody whose life could be defined by the above equation? There world is very much all about them, they are often not great at pursuing others, and their problems or opportunities always consume the conversation. You may know a lot about them but they would know very little about you. That’s because in most conversations you end up doing all the asking and listening.
Text: 1 Cor. 3:1-9
Big Idea: Networks is how God works in His Kingdom!
We have already looked at v1-3a, but now, as we move deeper into this text, we note how Paul illustrates worldliness.
How might you define worldliness in this context?
In keeping with Greek thinking, there were some in the Corinthian context who wanted to elevate a man and make him bigger than life. We have already seen this in v. 1:12. The Greek thinking of leadership was of power and lording it over others, as expressed by Jesus in Mark 10:42. Being mere men, as Paul says twice in v.3,4, meant that they were mirroring men in their thinking of leadership. In v.5-9 Paul attempts to correct their thinking. He demonstrates that it is networks that God uses to accomplish His Kingdom purposes:
We + Us + Ours = The Kingdom of God
Paul develops three key understandings that go along with this networking principle.
1. We fit into a much bigger picture (v.5)
How does Paul attempt to show that both he and Apollos are smaller parts of a much bigger picture?
Servants - Greek “diakonoi” - minister- meant a menial worker of any sort, free or slave. It was often used of a table waiter or what we would now call a busboy.
A “servant” implies that one greater than they is being served. A task in this context implies there is something greater being accomplished.
According to Paul (in v.5) what was the bigger picture being accomplished by these servants?
Unfortunately, in the corporate world and in the church, people will often sacrifice the bigger picture for their bigger ego.
Based on the book Tribal Leadership, 48% of professionals operate with language that sounds like this - “I’m great and you’re not”.
“When people at this stage cluster together, they attempt to outperform one another (on an individual basis) and put one another down. Although this is often done under the veil of humour, the effect is the same: each is striving for dominance. Individuals’ behavior expresses a ‘lone warrior’ ethos, and collectively, the culture becomes the ‘wild, wild west.’” (Tribal Leadership, p.261)
How do you see this kind of mentality going against the heart of the Gospel? Re-read Mark 10:42-45
Why is it difficult, at times, to submit to the bigger picture?
2. We have limitations (v.5,6,7)
What are the three pictures developed in these verses? Here is a clue – “Paul planted…”
Who is the hero? Note based on 1:12 and 3:4 who they wanted to make the hero.
Who assigned the tasks?
Do you think gifting and limitations had anything to do with the assignments?
Verse 6 is a beautiful picture of imperfect people coming together and exemplifying what Paul talks about in v.9
God’s fellow workers- partnerships
God’s field - When I think of a field I think of the hundreds of wheat stalks swaying the wind. Each stalk represents God’s fellow workers in God’s field doing God’s work.
God’s building - Together we contribute to a part of the building. We are not the whole building but a part of it that is consistent with our gifts. Note in v.16 Paul uses the terminology, temple.
Paul’s primary point was that the Corinthian Church was built not by one person but by several individuals in partnership with God. What was true corporately is also true individually. We don’t get “built” by just one person but by many doing their part.
Think of several examples in your own life right now where you see very clearly your dependence on others to contribute in their area of gifting.
Any of you praying a prayer something like “Lord bring someone into (name)'s life to do for them what I cannot do”?
If we don’t understand this big idea, and that we have limitations, do you know what happens? We try to be and do everything in a situation. Instead of saying “this is what I can and cannot do”, we slowly drain ourselves by trying to wear every hat. We develop what could be called the “savior complex”.
Side note - What does this text tell us about how our prayers should be shaped? Answer - pray that God makes things grow (v.7). But an equally important answer is seen in v.5 - Pray that you will know the task you are to commit to.
Think of a context where teaming up with others who have strengths you do not have, has resulted in good things happening.
3. We must be careful how we define success.
Based on this text, how do you think God defines success?
Let’s face it, many of us could find ourselves in situations these days where the only metric of success is our pure obedience to doing what we know God has called us to do. We don’t see much fruit, we struggle with limited results, we wonder if we are making a difference and those that we are investing in are ungrateful. Are you in a place like that these days?
Aren’t you glad God uses networks to accomplish His work?
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REFLECTION ON SCRIPTURE
- People: Who are the people in this passage and how are they like us today?
- Place: What is the setting and what are the similarities to our world?
- Plot: What is happening? Is there any conflict or tension? How would I have acted in that situation?
- Point: What was the intended message for the first people to hear this passage? What did God want them to learn or feel or do?
- Principles: What are the timeless truths?
- Present: How is this relevant in our world today?
- Parallels: Where does this truth apply to my life? At home, at work, at school, in church, in the neighborhood?
- Personal: What attitude, action, value, or belief needs to change in me?
- Plan: What would be my first step of action?