A couple of months ago, I was invited to a church to help lead their annual leader training. At this annual meeting, they eat dinner together, talk about their overall ministry philosophy and goals, and then break out into age segments for more directed and specific training. During the dinner, I happened to be seated close to a group of older ladies who chatted happily and enjoyed their chicken casserole as much as I did. But then came the time for a special presentation.
One of the casserole-enjoying ladies was, evidently, named Ms. Peggy, and she was to be honored that night. She was retiring from teaching one of the children’s Sunday school classes because she was moving to an assisted living home. But here’s the kicker – she was retiring after having taught that Sunday school class for 70 straight years.
Think about that. That means she taught children who, only a couple of years earlier, had lost their fathers during World War II. It means she shepherded children through things like the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It means that her Sunday school class excitedly talked about the Apollo Moon landing one Sunday. It means she was teaching the Bible during the tumultuous years of Vietnam. And on 9/11, she was still there. Sunday after Sunday. Week after week. Year after year. It’s remarkable.
And while it’s easy to think such a thing remarkable after 70 years, I wonder if 65 years ago we would have the same reaction to Ms. Peggy. Probably not. 65 years ago, we might have said, if someone asked us about her, that she was kind. A good Christian lady. But that she was “just” a Sunday school teacher.
Thing is, though, there is no “just” in the body of Christ.
No one is “just” a Sunday school teacher. No one is “just” an offering taker. No one is “just” a bringer of meals to the sick. No one is “just” a deacon. There is no “just.” This is what Paul is getting at in 1 Corinthians 12 where he describes the essential nature of every church member. After employing his metaphor of the human body to describe the church, claiming that every part of the body is important and that no part of the body could or should look down on any other one, he concludes:
“…those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, which our respectable parts do not need. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other” (1 Cor. 12:22-25).
In the same way that the human hand should not say, “I’m just a hand” or the human eye should not say, “I’m just an eye,” so there ought not to be any “justs” in the church.
Consider Ms. Peggy. Consider how many children have passed through her care. Consider how many times the truth of the gospel has gone through her to those children and their children’s children. I have a sneaking suspicion that people like this, the ones that serve quietly and without fanfare, but with great faithfulness, are the true heroes in the kingdom of heaven. And though we might not recognize them as such now, there will come a day when they meet the applause of Jesus.
As you serve this week, Christian, do so not from a posture of “just.” Be encouraged. Know that you are as essential in the body of Christ as anyone else.
And as you see others who model this same kind of quiet service, pause and consider for a moment that there is a great King who takes notice of His servant’s faithfulness. This King sees. And He will remember.