You may have heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The saying and its attribution as an African proverb provided the source for the title of a children’s book, It Takes a Village by Jane Cowen-Fletcher, published in 1994. A few years later, First Lady Hillary Clinton published a book by the same title. Scholars disagree on the exact source of the proverb, but there are similar sayings found in at least two Africa cultures. Both the Kijita and Swahili languages have a similar proverb. The literal translation reads, “regardless of a child’s biological parent(s) its upbringing belongs to the community.”
Our Western obsession with radical individualism, and our pride in being a self-made person makes it difficult for us to fully appreciate the importance of this proverb. We may not want to admit it, but our communities, for good or bad, impact the development of all our children.
The same reality holds true when it comes to making and growing disciples. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians (Chapter 4), understood and emphasized the role of the community of faith in the growth and development of the individual believer.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the Body of Christ to make a disciple of Christ!
Paul’s challenge to “walk worthy of the vocation to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1) is followed by his admonition to the entire body – “to the building up of the Body of Christ . . . to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the Head, even Christ.” (Eph. 4:13) Walking worthy is a reference to how we live and behave as followers of Jesus. In essence, walking worthy means becoming a disciple – a fully devoted, reproducing follower of Jesus who is consistently making disciples.
Walking worthy of our calling, first, requires a knowledge of, and a commitment to, our calling or vocation, both of which take place within the context of a community of faith – the local church.
I am convinced every believer is called and equipped by God to fulfill one or more of the five functions mentioned in Ephesians 4:10. These individuals are the gifts Christ gives to His Church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.
In order to discover our individual function or purpose in the Body, we need to see all five gifts at work. As each one of these gifted people use their gifts, the new believers are able to discover and develop their own giftedness. This creates the maturity Paul describes in Ephesians 4:14-15.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in the deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
Each of us has talents and gifts unique to our calling within the Body. None of us are shaped and gifted in the exact same way. God has created us with a unique purpose in mind; therefore, we are uniquely designed to fulfill that purpose.
For this reason, if we want to discover our unique calling, we need the shaping influence and input from the Body of Christ. We need to see how others live out God’s calling, and how God uses their giftedness within the Body of Christ. Therefore, in order to discover our calling and to walk worthy of that calling, we need the apostle, the teacher, the evangelist, the prophet and the pastor. Without them, we will never get a full picture of what the Body of Christ looks like, and we will fail to appreciate how our giftedness enables the Body to function as God intended.
Are we walking worthy? Are we helping and encouraging others to walk worthy?
Click here to listen to the audio version of this week’s encourage_