“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God— this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1
As a Christian Education professor, I often tell my colleagues, “Christian Education professors don’t exegete. If we do exegete, we didn’t mean to exegete!” When we use the term exegete, according to King and Powers (2021), it means to study Scripture in such a way as to “seek an understanding of what the author is attempting to communicate to the original audience through the text. Ultimately, the focus of exegesis is to comprehend the inspired message revealed through the Scripture passage.” As I review and consider what Paul is saying to the Christians in Rome, I find myself put in a place to do what Christian Education professors don’t do…exegete a passage of Scripture. My colleagues would be so proud! Let’s dive in.
Romans 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy…
Paul is continuing his remarks from the previous section, where he has reminded his readers that salvation has come for both the Jews and Gentiles. Paul is writing to everyone who has identified as a follower of Christ — that is anyone who calls himself a Christian. This gift of salvation is from God and is for anyone and everyone who believes.
…to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…
Thanks be to God, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we no longer have to offer beasts or material things on an altar for our salvation. All Christ commands from us is our lives totally surrendered and committed to Him. Gallaty (2017) reminds us, “He does not want us to die for Him; He wants us to live for Him.” Diehl (2022) states it this way, “Presenting or yielding our bodies to God speaks of a crisis and a process...a gift and a life.”
…holy and pleasing to God…
We are no longer living to please ourselves. We have died to our selfish selves (Galatians 2:20). Christ is interested that we live lives completely committed to Him, as this pleases Him. He is not interested in half-hearted Christian living. He set the example for all of us, by giving His all. He simply asks us to give our all, in living and serving Him.
…this is your true and proper worship.
As we live our lives for and to please God, then we find ourselves in a position of using our spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-5) and we begin living out the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In using our spiritual gifts, we begin to walk in unity with others in the body of Christ who are doing the same. Gallaty (2017) states, “Unity will be experienced when members function as the Lord leads and realize that we really belong to Christ’s body and not to self (1 Corinthians 6:19). Discipleship is never practiced in isolation but in relations with others.”
You’re probably wondering, “What does all this have to do with children’s ministry or leadership in ministry?” I’m glad you asked! I have been contemplating this passage of Scripture for quite a while, and trying to figure out the reasons we see pastors leaving the ministry, and people not responding to the call to ministry (vocationally or in a volunteer capacity).
I have a friend who recently retired. Since her retirement, she has made it her life’s passion and commitment to serve and fulfill her calling by serving the church. At first, I thought she was trying to earn her salvation through works. It seemed she was at the church 24/7. And whenever her friends would call her and ask where she was or what she was doing, her response was, “Oh, I’m just finishing up some things at the church.” It was foreign to me. Then, I read Romans 12:1, “This is your true and proper worship” and I realized she was worshipping her Lord through the work she was doing in and for the church. It wasn’t a job at first, she was a volunteer. Then, the church eventually began paying her to work twenty hours a week and she responded by working forty hours! She’s okay with that, because she is worshipping her Lord through the work she is doing for the church.
Please understand, I’m not advocating that we all need to drop our paying jobs, families, and other responsibilities to serve the church. But serving the body of Christ can be an opportunity to use your spiritual gifts and then see the fruit of the Spirit become alive and active within the body of Christ—which in reality is what it means to be engaged in discipleship. Maybe you thought discipleship only took place when there was an official Bible study session. When we consider how Jesus recruited, developed, and interacted with the twelve, we certainly can see discipleship taking place in their lives. Remember, Jesus walked, talked, fished, and ate with the twelve. He lived life with them.
Perhaps as leaders we recruit volunteers and encourage them to respond in obedience. Maybe if we begin to promote this as an opportunity to grow in their faith as they help the church fulfill its mission, and we train these individuals on the spiritual component in serving, we just might have more people saying yes to serving rather than running away from the opportunity. Can you help restore the joy in the call to serve the church? Help young believers know and understand that by serving they can experience what Paul meant by this is your “true and proper worship.”
By the way, Christian Educators do exegete! If you’re involved in any kind Bible lesson planning and you use the Bible (which I hope you do), you are exegeting, whether you realize it or not! Exegete on!
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