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God’s Big Toes

• Greg Boyd

The Church of Christ functions like a body. When one part of the body doesn’t work, it affects the rest of the body. In this sermon, Greg calls the Church to respond to God’s call for us to serve one another.

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By God’s own design, we are, together, the body of Christ. What happens with us happens with Christ, just as what happens to your body happens to you. This is why it causes problems when parts of the body don’t join the rest of the body as they should. In 1 Corinthians 12, we read that “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?”

We tend to evaluate some roles in the church as less important and less necessary. The preacher gets more honor than the Sunday school volunteer or youth worker. Yet, this thinking is not how God sees our service. God gives special honor to the things that humans give the least amount of honor. God places special value on the unknown person who sets up chairs, paints walls, cleans toilets and changes diapers. This unknown person is the most honored in God’s Kingdom. They have special value.

God is a communal and relational God. The Father, Son and the Spirit exist in perfect community, and these communal fingerprints are all over creation. The more that scientists learn about the universe; the more that we see how interdependent everything is. If one cog in the universe gets out of alignment, it has consequences that we can’t see. Every molecule has a certain role and if they don’t perform that role, it messes up the universe. This interdependence reflects the Trinity in such beautiful ways.

The Church that Jesus died to bring into existence reflects this interdependence and is the main vehicle that God carries out his will in this world. As we saw in 1 Corinthians, every body part affects every other body part. An eye has to function as an eye and the ear has to function as an ear in order for the body to work. And the parts that seem the least important are the parts that are the most important. Anyone who is missing knee cartilage knows this to be true.

Greg used to run ultra marathons. One of his best races was in 1991, where he ran 61 miles. Greg was doing really well and was conditioned to perform in the adverse conditions that existed on the day this marathon was run. Around the 30 mile mark, however, his left toe began to hurt. He began running with a limp, and pretty soon, his right leg began to hurt. He began to slow and people, that seemed much more tired and that he had passed previously, began to pass him. It was extremely frustrating for Greg. The fact that his toe had such influence over his other healthy leg and his running time was frustrating.

At the 50 mile mark, however, the pain suddenly vanished. Yet, Greg began to hear the sound of squishing when he stepped. He looked down and saw that his shoe had turned red. His toe had burst open and began bleeding all over—but it stopped hurting, and it was wonderful. When the toe started to function again, his leg stopped hurting, and he was able to quicken his pace to finish.

Our Church body works in the exact same way. For this body to do what God called it to do, we need everyone who belongs to the body to act as they are called. If we don’t have enough Sunday school volunteers, then some parents will miss learning and their call to be a leader at the Refuge. Most of American Christianity exists as a consumer religion. People show up and receive what they want from the church. However, the Church is the people that attend, and it calls it’s attendees to serve in the capacity that God made them for. The Church is you and you are the Church.

Getting involved is just the first step in a journey with being a part of God’s church. As you grow in your service, you will find new and exciting ways that God has equipped you to be a part of the church and a part of the body of Christ. You are a part of the Church, and God wants you to join in and function how he has called you.

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Topics: Calling, Community, Sacrifice

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Focus Scripture:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:11-14

    All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

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17 thoughts on “God’s Big Toes

  1. Jill says:

    It important to preach how important it is serve in a message such as this. I went to a different church for a long time without serving, thinking, I don’t have time or they have enough help, etc. Sometimes the church body needs a reminder of how necessary this is and there’s no better person to do it than the senior pastor. Your parishnors/podrishnors relate to you and when you explain how important it is, they listen, and the people who serve appreciate hearing how important their role is.

  2. Teresa says:

    Yes and amen! We are one body – no division – not even between “volunteers”and “employees.” But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 1 Cor. 12:25

  3. Teresa says:

    GREAT sermon!!! Precious words for WH Church!!! xoxo

  4. Dana says:

    This morning I prayed, as I have been struggling through this issue, that the Lord would help me reconcile this difference between the Old & New Testament of hierarchy verses government, of the high priest as mediator between God & man verses us all being high priests in Christ…a body jointly fit together. At 6am, I turned on this msg and felt God letting me know that he hears my struggle. This was a wonderful message that is greatly needed in the church. My husband and I work with at-risk, marginalized, and underserved populations (youth and families) in the community and see many oppressive systems that affect those in poverty and other bondages that our church friends typically blame the victim for (they aren’t pulling themselves up by their bootstraps) yet the church still reaches out to the poor because it’s the “Christian thing to do”…My biggest struggle is with the issue of power & privilege. It seems so obvious that the striving for power and status that the secular world operates in (that also oppresses others), also affects the church. After serving in many forms of ministry (volunteer & full-time staff) for 20 years, the word preached from the pulpit is that all have value, gift, etc… and we appreciate the scriptures criteria for leadership/government, however, what is lived out in community is a system of hierarchy that attributes value to those at “the top” and not the bottom…though, they get the pat on the back. We were caught up in this and as “top-dwellers”, there was such a pressure to maintain this status (performance, performance, performance!). I still struggle because although we have stepped out of this, it does affect the sense of community that is so vital to our walk. We have seen for so long, people being placed in leadership positions because of their image, charisma, relationship with a high status person, ability to look the part, or positionality. The hidden, wise, broken servants that are living the kingdom and seeking God and who are emanating this natural, magnetic influence are in all actuality dismissed. I still need help with this… I know all about guarding our hearts from bitterness and cynicism, remaining in a flawed community knowing that I too, am flawed, but I continue to see people hurt, the motivation to serve is dampered, and people’s gifts are wasted as a few top leaders do the primary work of ministry and others with great capacity are delegated to be something like “widget makers” on a type of spiritual assembly line doing mindless, unfulfilling tasks while they await permission from a top-dweller to “release” them for other purposes. The verse typically used to maintain this system is “if you’re faithful in the little, God will make you ruler of much…” Our addiction to power, has us thinking that if we serve another person’s vision, God will see to it, that our life’s purpose will come to pass. Obviously, we don’t wait for our purpose because it is right now in the ordinary places of life… anyway, this is a long, jumbled post just how it is a struggle in my mind and how I would love for Greg to speak to this type of situation somehow!

  5. Jason says:

    ‘From a New Testament perspective the church is not a MacDonald’s’ The challenge for us all in North America is not to allow the consumerism mentality running rampant around us everywhere to take hold of our minds and lives.

    Appreciated the beautiful prophetic picture of the church rising from the rubble that looks and acts like Jesus, the exact character of God (Heb. 1:1-3).

    The great challenge and privilege before us is to further this beautiful Jesus-centered church as we align our thoughts and deeds with Christ who came not to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45)

  6. Scott Schneider says:

    AMEN Dana!!!

  7. Pat says:

    Good message and the point about woundedness was something I needed to hear. Thank you.

  8. Paula says:

    You mentioned the ‘triumphalism’ thought.
    Is that the same thing as ‘dominion theology’?

    Thanks for a great message and the overview of what WH believes. I orignally became aquainted with you by reading God at War.


  9. Teresa says:

    amen dana!!! Thanks so much for having the courage to write what you did. You speak for many many many others. Be encouraged! God is working through you. Keep praying too. Pride and power are big obstacles!!!

  10. Lilly says:

    For some reason the last two messages can not be seen properly when expanded full screen. They are out of sync. The only way they are in sync is on the tiny screen. Has something changed in the production process?

  11. Russ Deniston says:

    Hello! I am fairly long time podcaster & financial supporter of both this ministry & ReKnew. The teachings that I have heard of Greg’s number well over 250, I think, & they have had an amazing impact on my life, not to mention his books, most of which I’ve read. In regard to Sunday’s sermon, though, I was, frankly, just a bit shocked by Greg in his opening comments about people who do not attend a church meeting on a regular basis. I thought Greg’s comments surprisingly judgmental & were essentially name-calling, and I thought that they were neither consistent with either the words nor spirit of what I’ve heard previously. Perhaps this disparagement was inadvertent on Greg’s part?

    It is also strange to me that Greg would make such statements, especially given that the podcast ministry is a such a significant, potential enabler of just such a course of action, i.e., the 10-15,000 people who download & listen regularly to his teaching every week, as he notes later on in his talk. Don’t you think that a significant proportion of these folks have perhaps abandoned the current, traditional church model that has evolved since New Testament times?

    Community is absolutely vital, and being in committed, deep, and regular relationships with other Christians is without doubt crucial in every regard as I strive to allow myself to be changed into the image of Christ. This is something I am intentional about, but I no longer attend a ‘church’ (aren’t we the Church?) on Sunday mornings. From what I see in the Word, this is what we are called to, and this may or may not include attendance of a Sunday morning meeting…… with a bunch of people, the vast majority of whom we cannot hope to be in any type of real, meaningful relationship with….

    I would hope that something further in the way of clarification might might be appropriate, although, truth be told, I can’t say that I was offended and won’t listen to any more podcasts!

    To the King & His Kingdom,

    PS – Be interesting to hear Greg’s thought’s on how evolving technology has & is impacting traditional church paradigms.

  12. Tim G. says:


    The Bible teaches us directly in Hebrews and other scripture to “fail not to assemble together” as apparently some in the early church shared your concerns. The Bible also teaches us indirectly that we should assemble (have church) in the epistles as Paul explains to young Timothy and others how a church should operate. I understand you may have experienced some bitterness and/or disappointment, but I think if you really look at it honestly and without any presuppositions, the Bible just assumes that local church attendance is obvious to the reader. 🙂

  13. Jill says:

    Hmm, you make me want to listen to Greg’s opening comments again. I don’t remember anything being that pointed, but I will listen to the beginning again when I get a few minutes. But, my sense was, the people who attend the church on a regular basis should also try and help serve the church. We can all do other outside ministries that benefit the community, etc. So, I don’t feel like he was ripping on people “not” attending church, rather, those who do should be involved. And, as long as you fellowship in some way and support the ministry you like (which it aounds like you are) then you are doing your part rather well.

  14. Dara says:

    Over the last few years I’ve been so disillusioned by “church”…Every church we visit the pastor is either all about “taking the country back for God”, or preaching how awesome it is that we have a God who “is in control” and that “everything is part of His perfect plan” and all about raising money for a bigger better building and evangelizing to get people to say the sinner’s prayer and…

    So…my problem is…How do I enjoy or “submit” myself to a leader with such beliefs?! How can I become part of a body with a “head” like that? “If the head is sick it makes the body sick, too,” so…won’t submitting to leadership that’s “sick” make me worse off? But, I guess a body with no head is dead, too. Ugh. See…this is what troubles me most about “church”! 🙁

    Anyone have any thoughts?

  15. Jill says:

    Move to the Twin Cities and attend Woodland Hills;-)

    Actually, you could invite a group of friends over to watch sermons by Podcast, kind of like a home church/small group type idea.

    I don’t think you should submit to a church just because you feel like you have to. If your heart tells you that you need to be at a church, keep searching, and I think you’ll find one that fits you.

  16. Scott Schneider says:

    Russ I hear you. I did not take personally what Greg said, but it did make me cringe. Tim meeting together is vital, as Russ stated, but not as an institution. In fact Jesus pronounced Judgment on the Temple as an istitution as well as the priesthood. The church in acts served each other and we are to live in community(koinonia). The Sunday morning service is not magic and is not needed for salvation or to follow Jesus. In fact Greg preaching about “getting smaller” and this is the community that Russ was talking about. Greg said not live as a solitary follower of Jesus. Russ in many ways I do not want to call myself a Christian any longer because it is just another world religion. I refer to myself as a follower of Jesus. Woodland Hills vision of getting smaller is a New Testament understanding of Church(Never a building or an institution). What I understang Greg talking about “house church” under WH is where much of the “church” activities take place. This includes spiritual gifts, where most of American Christianity does this corporately and it, to me, severely limits the manifestation of the gifts. Also Tim, most of the world cant have large churches and buildings and it seems that your restrictions cant work in those places where an institution is needed. Would you say that they are not being biblical. We need to live in community but the American Church is not promoting true community(koinonia) as much of it is translated fellowship and most of the fellowship does not even come close to mainifesting koinonia. JOhn Eldredge defines it as sharing/living life together. Coming together for a Sunday service or a Thursday morning prayer breakfast is not koinonia. But doing this with people whom you live life toghether with as well as going to each others kids birthday parties and high school football games and neighborhood cookouts and Bible studies in the living room or back yard and hunting and fishing-all of this and more contstitute koinonia. “Going” to church was not a concept that the church in Acts would have understood. They did go to Temple until the Bible states God scattered them all over the diaspora and further. So Russ I am with you. The American Church has institutionalized us just like the prison system istitutionalizes the prisoner. Woodland Hills does a good job of modeling about not being institutionalized but remember Tim that most of the world is not like America and most of them cant have an istitution and yet that is where Chrsitianity is growing the most. America is dying. I wonder why?

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