When my son was in High School he was a member of the swim team. One year our team qualified for True Team State. True Team State competition is an exciting event, even more so than the traditional State competition. In State competition swimmers compete as individuals. At True Team they compete as a team. Everybody scores, from top to bottom. Ten teams competed at the State meet. For each individual event there were 40 competitors. The person who finished first earned 40 points for his team and the person who finished last earned 1 point. What makes this competition different from all others is that the greater the depth you have on your team the better your team will do. The motto for the event was True Team: Where Every Athlete Counts.
I think Paul would have liked the True Team idea. He wrote about something very similar to it in 1 Corinthians 12. The Corinthians were having an ego problem. They had become very competitive among themselves, vying for position in the church. Paul wrote to them and reminded them that they were the body of Christ and that every part of the body counts.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ….
…But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. [1 Cor. 12:12, 24b-27]
Paul emphasized that everyone has a place on the team. The body of Christ is not just for the elite. The church is not made up of a few stars and a bunch of spectators. Just like our human bodies are made up of many diverse parts so the body of Christ is as well. It takes all of the parts performing their particular function for the body to be healthy. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. [Ephesians 4:16]
Paul also emphasized that no one part of the body can stand alone. In our society we value individualism. We are taught to stand on our own two feet, and there is some merit in that. But when it comes to living as a part of the body of Christ we need to embrace the reality that we need each other. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" [1 Cor. 12:21] God has placed us in an interdependent relationship that keeps us connected to Him and to each other.
Finally Paul made it clear that we should not devalue our place on the team. I was caught up by the excitement that surrounded the slower heats at the True Team competition. If a swimmer in a slower heat could post a time better than someone in a faster heat he could move up in the scoring. No one just swam their heat. They gave it everything they had. In the body of Christ we all count. Although our roles are different they all matter to the overall effectiveness of our work for the Kingdom of God. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” [1 Cor. 12:14-15]
God has placed us together as a spiritual team. He has assigned each of us roles to play that will accomplish His purposes and advance His Kingdom. Not only do we need to discover our place on the team, we need to celebrate it! The True Team competition was designed so that every athlete would count. God has designed the church in the same way. Whether our contribution is small or great it matters. Maybe we should adapt the True Team motto: The Church: Where Every Member Counts.