The point of the well-known African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”, is that to raise a child well, many more people than a child’s parents play a part.
Perhaps the same is true for a disciple.
It takes a church to raise a disciple, and a church comprises many more people than just the pastor, or a Bible study group mentor. No-one can be a village on his own. A church is also a village of different people across cultures, age groups, occupations etc. And we are all disciples who need to be nurtured, and who must help nurture one another.
The apostle Paul uses a different analogy.
He wrote that just as a body, though one, has many parts, all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all, whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free, baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body and we were all given the one Spirit. Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body”. it would not, for that reason, stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body”. it would not, for that reason, stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
In fact, God has placed the parts, every one of them, in the body just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Cor 12:12–21)
Like individual parts of a body, we each have a part to play in both nurturing, and being nurtured by, fellow disciples in the Church.
Edward Hale, an American author, historian and Unitarian minister, once remarked, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” Indeed, it takes a village to raise a Church of disciples. Let us then be as the one body of Christ, together nurturing and being nurtured, to the glory and joy of God, our Father.
The Rev Dr Gordon Wong was re-elected President of Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) in 2016 for a second quadrennial term, but is primarily grateful to God for the gift of his wife Lai Foon and two children Deborah and Jeremy.
Picture by Andrey Tokarchuk/Bigstock.com