March 18, 2024 |

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.  If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection,[e] and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:4-10, NLT)

I grew up in different denomination from The United Methodist Church. My first experience as a solo pastor was with a different denomination, where I was appointed to two Hispanic congregations in Philadelphia. It was a great experience and the people of these two congregations were amazing.

But even before I was appointed to these two churches, I was not sure if I belonged with them. Great things were happening, the churches were growing, and the future was bright, yet my heart was not at peace.

Through God’s mysterious ways, I found myself in conversation with a superintendent for the former Capital (now Central) District in GNJ. Long story short, I started my journey with The United Methodist Church in the summer of 2014. Most importantly, from the moment I did set foot in The United Methodist Church something amazing happened: I felt that I belonged!

My sense of belonging went beyond peace of heart and mind. Since becoming a United Methodist, I now feel that I can freely use my gifts to make disciples for the transformation of the world.

To belong in the body of Christ means that we now have this amazing calling in our lives to use our gifts, our interests, and our resources to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel. If we want people to know that they belong to our faith community, we must encourage and support them by allowing their gifts to be used in our churches. When we discourage the people of our pews from using their gifts, we pretty muchtell them that they don’t belong in our faith community.

This is why the apostle Paul is saying to the church in Rome: if you have a certain gift, use it! Be generous with it. But he is also telling the church that they need to allow these gifts to be used in their community.

When people in our pews feel that they belong, their ministries will flourish. They will be willing to take more risks and push themselves. Their commitment to the church will strengthen and yes, they will give more generously. Because they are part of the body. Because their gifts have found a home. Because they belong.

The apostle Paul summarizes how we are to do this effectively when he said: Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other. (Rom. 12:10)

When we love with genuine affection and delight in honoring each other, we encourage each other to use our gifts and make each one to feel that we belong!

The Rev. Sammy Arroyo is Associate Superintendent of the Coastal Plains Region. He leaves GNJ’s staff March 31 to join the staff of Princeton Theological Seminary.

Republished from the Coastal Plains Region Newsletter