Showing up to church with what we have to offer

Written by Emily Montesano

Two weeks before the pandemic, I took my first trip to Rwanda with The Wellspring Foundation for Education, the organization I work with. While there, I had the pleasure of travelling to one of the schools Wellspring partners with, and I got to witness a group of parents working through one of our training modules.

The module emphasized mobilizing the community’s assets and strengths rather than focusing on what’s lacking. The entire lesson was focused on a simple object—an empty plastic water bottle—to make a simple yet poignant point:everyone has something to contribute to their community. Nobody is an empty water bottle.

I realized that this analogy is a powerful tool for building dignity and worth within people who believe they have nothing to offer because of their material or physical circumstances. In this case, it helped the parents realize they have skills, talents, resources, strengths, connections, and assets that can be used for positive change within their school and wider community.Each parent brings something unique and of worth to the table.

This analogy is a beautiful picture of what it looks like to be a Christian, and what it means to be part of the Church. It’s what 1 Corinthians 12 talks about! The Body of Christ is made up of different parts, each with different functions but all contributing to the same purpose.

When a part doesn’t recognize its function or the wider purpose, the whole body suffers.

Like how your physical body suffers when there is even one small ailment, the entire Church suffers when a member downplays or withholds their contribution. It even says so in 1 Corinthians 12: 26: ”If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

What would happen if Christians saw themselves as empty water bottles and didn’t show up with their gifts, ready to contribute to the Church? If they didn’t believe their contribution would make a difference, or simply didn’t pour out what they have? We’d miss out on opportunities to walk in community, grow in our faith, and pour out what only we can offer to build into the Church.

Earlier in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the different kinds of spiritual gifts we’ve all been given by the Spirit. While each gift is different from the others, they are all given by the same Lord and are all equally important.

But what’s the purpose of these gifts, and what are we supposed to do with them? Verse 7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Every Christian is given gifts from God, and God instructs us to use those gifts to benefit others. After all, what good would our gifts be if we didn’t share them?

Simply put, we as Christians need one another. As a community of believers, we pursue relationships together, celebrate together, mourn together, spur one another on, care for, and walk alongside each other as we live out our faith. We are a body of many parts, all spiritually connected to one another.

We are called to come together to contribute to the Church and see it flourish. And like the water bottle analogy reminds us, we don’t do this empty-handed. We are equipped and empowered with “the manifestation of the Spirit,” the unique gifts given to us by God to be contributed to the larger body. We are not empty water bottles; we are filled with God-given gifts and called to pour them out into His Church.

During the pandemic and months of distancing and isolation, this metaphor became a powerful prompt for me—what’s in my water bottle? What is it that I uniquely possess, and how can I use these things to serve my community and contribute to the Church?

Instead of choosing spiritual isolation, I began to dig into my new church community. I started showing up for my small group and friends by bearing their burdens, interceding through prayer, and opening my home in safe ways to care for those in my life who were feeling heavy and brokenhearted.

As much as this blessed my church community, I was also blessed with deeper friendships and opportunities to witness God’s faithfulness and work in their lives and my own. I found myself opening up and asking for prayer, leaning on my community during hardships, celebrating with others, and building a church family. I was empowered, encouraged, cared for, and strengthened by my church. I found joy and purpose as I discovered the unique things I bring to the table and how God can use them.

No matter your circumstance, you have something that your community and your church needs, and it would be a shame not to share it! Whatever that might be and however it might look, we’re better off with what you have to offer.