And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…
These verses introduce us to many different people with a variety of roles and strengths who all have a singular goal: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
Sometimes, the church is described as a hospital. On the one hand, this is true. The church is filled with people who are not well and far from perfect. But think about the goal of a hospital. A hospital aims to heal all of its patients so that the patients can get on with their lives as mothers, engineers, students, etc.
If the church is only a hospital, then the purpose of the church is to deal with our sins, weaknesses, and wounds so that we can get on with our lives and pursue our personal dreams and goals.
A body is very different. Each part of the body has a different function: teeth are for chewing, eyes are for seeing, and feet are for walking and smelling bad. Yet, all the parts of the body are working together for one larger purpose. The body as a whole is fulfilling a singular purpose and each of its members contributes to that larger purpose.
In a similar way, each member of the church may have a different function. Some are prophets and others are teachers or evangelists, etc. But all are building up the body.
This is something we can conceptually understand but find hard to accept as it is the opposite of what our culture tells us is important. The world says that what’s really important is what makes us different, but this is not true.
The Apostle Paul understands what is important in life. In Ephesians 4:1 he speaks of how he is a prisoner for the Lord. The Lord that He serves is worth going to prison for, worth giving his life for and it is for this Jesus that he urges us to walk in love, maintain the unity of the Spirit, and build up the body.
And while we may bristle at the idea of living for something that millions of saints and angels throughout history have lived for, there is something to be said about living for something that a single human life could not possibly accomplish or overshadow. Our unique contributions may not be remembered clearly but the One for whom we live will be remembered and worshiped for all of eternity. It is our privilege to live for the One who is greater than all other people, causes, and events that could ever be conceived.