Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Church: Bringing Weird People Together Since AD 33

I think I saw a rather crude T-shirt once about beer causing ugly people to hook up since some certain date. Sadly that is probably true. But I want to use that phrase (not the hooking up part) to talk about the church.

Did you know that one of the greatest ways that you can display the worth of Jesus is by living life together with others? When churches fight and split over petty squabbles they communicate that carpet color is more important than Jesus. Or that clock positions are more vital than our position in the kingdom of Christ.

There is a little illustration that I have used a few times before with a magnet when speaking to various groups. All it requires is a magnet, a few paper clips, and a sense of humor. Since I can gather up two of the three I usually give it a go. And because you are probably funnier than I am I thought perhaps you could use this illustration.

The Magnet Illustration

I begin by discussing the diversity within the early disciples. I talk a little bit about Simon the Zealot (the guy who hated Rome) and Matthew the tax collector (the guy who sold out to Rome). I attempt to show how these two would have been like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. Then I explain how their unity in Jesus trumps their disunity. When they are transformed in Christ it transforms all of their relationships.

Then I note that this can be illustrated with a magnet and three paper clips. I try to get three different looking paper clips. I pick up one paper clip and tell his story. I talk about all of his likes and dislikes. I usually make him an old curmudgeon named Clem. Then I use the magnet and talk about Christ (the magnet) drawing Clem to himself.

Then I pick up my second paper clip. I talk about all of her likes and dislikes. I usually name her something like Wanda (because seldom do I have someone say, “Hey! My name is Wanda!). I share her likes and dislikes. All of these usually has to do with audience that I am speaking to. I try to magnify some of the differences of opinion that are likely in the group. I highlight age differences and try to caricature them so as not to make it seem like a punch to the throat but a friendly slap on the back. After discussing Wanda I then talk about her being drawn into fellowship with Jesus.

Finally, I’ve got my third paper clip which is usually my hip teenager or some other age of young whippersnapper. I make fun of him just like the others. I share his likes and dislikes. And then I talk about his being drawn into a relationship with Jesus.

I then hold up the magnet and note that these paper clips are not only drawn into fellowship with Jesus. They are in fellowship with one another--intimate and vital fellowship with one another. The second you try to remove yourself from union with one of these other paper clips you’ve removed yourself from the fellowship of the magnet as well. This is why our relationship with other believers is one of vital community.

Displaying the Power of the Magnet

That is simply an illustration to show the necessity of living life together. I usually also include a point about displaying the worth of Jesus by our unity with one another. When Clem, Wanda, and whatever I name the youngin’ lay down their differences for the sake of actually partnering for the sake of the gospel it displays the power of the gospel of Jesus. It communicates that Christ is more precious than whatever would keep us apart.

The church, bought with the blood of Christ, is the means that Jesus uses to draw really weird people into intimate fellowship. And he’s been doing it since around AD 33. Don’t forget that the next time you have a little squabble over living out life in the magnet. You’re still unique but you have something far greater than your own uniqueness that defines you; namely, the powerful Christ.


I don’t think that I have seen this illustration anywhere nor have I read of it anywhere. However, it is possible that somehow it slipped in through my skull at some point and lodged itself in there without my knowing it’s origin. If you have used this illustration and I stole it from you, I apologize. I know that the tweaks to it are original with me…but the use of the magnet and paper clips may not be—but I think it is.

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