The Church’s Appendix


For most of my adult life, science had no idea what the purpose was for the human appendix. Sure, it got inflamed, infected, and sometimes necessitated removal, but that was it. A worthless, vestigial organ, not found in other mammals.

In the last 15 years or so, science has discovered that the appendix serves several functions. In the developing fetus, it operates as a source of specific endocrine cells that assist biological control systems. In adults, it has an immune system role specific to the gut, with additional lymphatic functions. And more recently, researchers have found the appendix serves as a warehouse for intestinal bacteria, able to reestablish healthy gut function after bouts with illnesses such as diarrhea. Lastly, doctors can use the appendix in urinary bladder reconstruction.

In short, the appendix has not one but several useful functions.

One of Paul’s most lingering illustrations in the New Testament is that of Christ’s Body being composed of many parts, some with less obvious functions. Still, all parts of that Body are useful.

Useless, worthless person?I suspect that many people in our churches today feel like the Body’s appendix. Or at least the appendix of old, when we thought it had no real purpose except to go bad and become life threatening.

I think of the person with the prophetic gift that goes unused in a church that ignores the prophetic. Or the person with a gift of words of wisdom but who is not a church leader, so he or she is given no opportunity to practice that gift in the larger church body.

It’s time we stop running our churches ignorant of the purposes of the people within our assemblies. If anything, we should devote more time to unlocking the functions of each person and gift in a church. No one in a church is a useless, vestigial organ. God Himself sees to that. It’s for His good pleasure and to the strength of the Church that each person should exercise his or her function within the Body of Christ.

What is holding those people back is our ignorance, sloth, and fear. And God detests that kind of faithlessness.

13 thoughts on “The Church’s Appendix

  1. This is outstanding and a great illustration.

    When we only value certain traditionally recognized gifts and callings and largely ignore the very sorts of gifts that seem most critical in Scripture we have an apathetic and atrophied Body.

    • Agreed, ccinnova. My son and I were reading the marriage/singleness passages in 1 Corinthians this morning, and I was struck again at how little consideration we give singles, especially as prime movers within the Church. The singles should be the ones on the forefront of moving the Church forward, yet we restrain them and minimize their gifts if we do think those gifts align with our purposes. What an incalculable loss!

  2. linda

    Hi Dan,
    We may be too close to the ‘day of the Lord’ to batter this issue of raising up ‘gifts’ in the church. We hardly have ‘church’ functioning to any good capactity, never mind trying to train or provide opportunity for the development of gifts. There’s a crisis to even get ‘Truth’ spoken about and taught in churches. And not only this, but the ability to deliver effective sermons is almost lost in our day, it seems. There’s just no meat, no balance, no gifting to deliver Truth in encouraging and faith producing ways to believers. This is a general observance by me of this matter in my area of Canada.

    The highly publicized and well known Christian figures are not doing better. They’re just more charismatic and more entertaining than others.

    We see what is happening in the world around us. This is not a time of peace. Volcanoes are active, larger earthquakes are happening in the world almost daily. We see unfriendly weather that is ‘different’ from what is usual in our weather patterns. This tells us something. We are in different times today than ever before. Apparently the earth narrowly missed a solar flare just a couple of weeks ago. This solar flare (had it lined up with our planet) would have disrupted electricity service to some areas of the world for a long time. What would happen if we lost our electicity in North America? Chaos. These are the times we are in. Times of survival.

    • Linda,

      I don’t share the same immediacy that you do. The world still has many places with no Gospel.

      I lend no credence to earthquakes and volcanoes currently. What we have is better measurement, not greater preponderance. When improved measurement is included, everything flattens out.

      As Christians, we’re to keep on doing what we’re doing until the Lord comes back. If Paul criticized people who forsook their normal jobs in anticipation of the Lord’s return, would he excuse the Church for doing the same? No.

      Every generation believes it is the last generation. History has proven this not to be the case. Plus, I don’t think we’re anywhere near the bottom as far as badness goes. Until the Lord comes back, we are to keep on keeping on.

  3. Thank you, Dan, for providing me with a different perspective on my sense of uselessness! My most recent attack of worthlessness came when I offered to serve as an unpaid intern at my church, putting my gifts and talents to use on their current list of church goals. I was told that they’d think about it and get back to me. That was nine days ago and I’ve heard nothing yet. I guess I’d hoped for some indication that the offer piqued their interest. I will say I haven’t given up on it. I suspect that my offer struck them as odd, if not bizarre, and they don’t know how to respond. Still, it opens the door for Satan to whisper ugly things in my ear. (I wish I could say that this was the first time I’ve had an offer of service dismissed or rejected. Oh, well…) Anyway, thanks for suggesting that people like me may still serve some purpose as yet undiscovered.

  4. Dan: “I suspect that many people in our churches today feel like the Body’s appendix.”

    All they need to do, Dan, is join a “small group” and get with the script.

    Problem solved.

  5. linda

    There were 35 deadly and destructive earthquakes between magnitudes 6 and 8 in 2008 according to what I found on the USGS information. In 2012 there were 146 deadly and destructive earthquakes between magnitude 6 and 8 according to what I found. Some of these earthquakes happen out at sea, however, from 2008 to 2012 the technology used to record these eathquakes would be comparable.

    Fron 1900 to the year 2000 there were less than 5 earthquakes per year of the magnitude of 6 to 8. The year 2000 was touted (at the time) as the change time of something major. I think this was true. Great increases have occurred since 2000. Unsustainable increases in many areas of life and economy here on earth.

    There are signs all around us. Animals, birds, fish are becoming extinct at rapid rates. We see signs in the sky of dangers increasing from space all the time in our day. Were these dangers already there before? I don’t think so. Jesus says that these are the signs to watch for at the coming of the ‘end’.

    I’m not saying that the ‘end’ is here. I’m saying that we see the signs that Jesus spoke about in the Bible. Other generations before us did not. We know that the Bible says that the ‘day of the Lord’ will come as a thief. In Noah’s day they were doing their everyday things, and life was the same, right up to the day that Noah got into the ark.

    It will be the same as in he days of Noah, Jesus says, at his second coming.

  6. Great analogy of the inflamed appendix. For an accurate diagnosis and divine remedy, we have to find the root cause of the inflammation. The current church structure and system is not the root cause but a major symptom of a very sick body with a host of aggravated sub-symptoms. The root cause is that we have departed from the truth of the gospel as the first century church knew it and attempted to practice it. This departure from the truth has led to a weak, diseased and dying body. We need to go back to the basics of the gospel of Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23;2:2). What divine purpose did Christ complete by His death on the cross and what did Jesus mean for us to carry our own cross? Without properly understanding and practically applying this foundational New Covenant truth of the cross in our own lives, we cannot hope to build a healthy body and church.

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