I want to be the very best, like no one ever was. (Really, who doesn’t though?)
Those very words were like a bugle call to kids who grew up in my generation, because those were the words to the original Pokemon theme song. I, along with my brother, were right in the perfect age range to enjoy and become fans of Pokemon, or as some might call it, “that Japanese show with a talking yellow mouse named something like “pekachow” or “pokaman” or something.”
So I can safely say that I was inundated, surrounded, and enamored with this whole phenomenon, and I think for the better.While the subject matter of the game is ethically questionable– training animals to fight each other, anybody?– the game still had a lot to teach me. The show? Perhaps not as much. The game? Definitely. Most significantly, the game taught me the importance of strength in diversity.
You see, you learned early on in the game that if you’re going to do make it through, you’re going to have to have a strategy, the best of which consists of 1) choosing a well rounded and balanced party, and 2) training the heck out of that party so you’re prepared for even the most powerful enemies.
In the case of Pokemon, there are a variety of different types, strengths and weaknesses to take into account when you build up your party of adorable yet dangerous monsters. Making sure you have a good party, knowing what they are capable of fighting, and accounting for any weaknesses, is the key to a success. Not only that, building them up and training them for what they need to do is terribly important; you don’t want to fight a level 85 fire type with a team full of level 15 water types is just downright dumb. You need to train them so they are better, faster, stronger, and more capable of taking on the challenges that come at them.
Believe it or not, it’s the same way with the church.
The writer of Ephesians knew this; there is more than one type of leader in the church, more than one kind of minister. In Ephesians 4:7-16, it says:
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.’
9(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended* into the lower parts of the earth? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
So you see, he knew that the only way the church would be united, the only way the church would be strong and healthy, was with an appreciation for the diverse gifts and graces God has given us to do the missional work of the church, and the dedication to build itself up in love by the power of the spirit.
For example, I’m training to be a cleric, of a sort.
I feel called to a life in the ministry of the church as an ordained elder, to minister through word, service, sacrament and order. I believe that in order for the church to do what it needs to do, there are people called to this kind of ministry. HOWEVER, this is far from the only ministry out there.
I know I do not have the skills, gifts and graces to do everything in the church, and anyone who thinks they do is kidding themselves. The writer of Ephesians knew this very well. Some people are called to be urban ministers, youth ministers, teachers and children’s ministers. Some people specialize in working with the poor, the sick, the dying. Some are called to be military chaplains, hospital chaplains, counselors, social workers, doctors, nurses, and community organizers. Some are called to organization, accounting, and making sure all the wheels of the machines are working. Some are called to be builders, architects, mechanics and caretakers. Some are called to be lawyers, or tax collectors, and yes, even politicians. Some are called to be stay at home moms, stay at home dads, working moms, working dads, and any other family configuration you can think of.
The list could go on and on and on and I would never get finished with the myriad ways in which God calls people to live out their lives faithfully in love, nor the ways in which we build each other up in love.
Ministry, vocation and calling are not limited to clergy. All who live in Christ are called to ministry in love. All of us. People from every race, age, gender, background and level of capability can serve God. The church needs a balanced party in order to survive, but not only that, to grow, and to help achieve the work of the Kingdom of God.
To everyone who will listen, God tells us, “I choose you.”