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The church is the ultimate Pickup Group
The hazard and joy of PUGs
I usually avoid pickup groups [PUGs]1 in games.
It is often a social gong show as you just don't know who you will get on your team. The skill levels are frequently unbalanced, and their personalities can be unexpected... this is to say, you may find yourself with an angry, foul-mouth teammate than an encouraging one. It is truly a try-at-your-own-risk type of session if you open your group up to the unknown.
Yet, when you do find yourself paired up with a group of pleasant, cooperative teammates, you will want to keep playing together for as long as you can. Pickup groups are a hit and miss. It can ruin the game for you or give you the joy and exhilaration as it was meant to be.
The church community can sometimes feel like a PUG. It consists of people we may not have chosen to be part of our family, and yet, Jesus put them beside us. While in a game, the algorithm decides your teammates via limited criteria, but in a church, Jesus chooses each and every person for a purpose—Nobody is here by accident or by mistakes.
But because Jesus placed each of us here by His own design, we don't often see the value and purpose of each other; We don't always get along. Sometimes, it can be abrasive, rubbing shoulders to shoulders against people who have different giftings, personalities, and views. It is easy to fall into the temptation of wanting to discard everyone we don't like or trust and only keep those we want to be around.
In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul tells us that there are many parts in the body of Christ, and each of us has different roles and giftings that work together. Like the pastors and teachers who help equip each rag-tag group of local members to build up the church and do the work of service. Most of us would say amen to that as we often find ourselves serving differently and thereby also independently or within like-minded ministry groups—We silo ourselves in groups so we can do different things. But then my question became, did God just put different people together in a community just so we can accomplish different works of service? Is it just so we have a diversified and efficient workforce?
Sometimes, We might think that is the only reason we are stuck with someone we don't get along with; In that, like a corporation, we have to be together because we have to work together for God. And because it is only for the sake of work, if they work in a different group, and I work in another part of the church, then that is good enough; we can say we love each other by tolerating one another in the same community. I know this may sound harsh, but I think we would have missed the point if the question we are asking is, how close do we have to be to look like we love each other?
What we would have missed is that God is not looking for us to do just work, but as verse 13 says, the aim is to "come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ."
Our being together is not just to do, but to be. We are to become mature in Christ, and that means to be like Him in all His fullness. That means when outsider sees the church, they see not just the good work she does but the authentic love, grace, and mercy that binds everyone in her.
The unity in our faith is something all of us need to intentionally pursue if we are to become mature brothers and sisters in Christ, together. This does not come naturally because we are all very different and sometimes even opposites. And I think this is why as verse 16 tells us, such a body of people can only be built up in love; not through efficiency, pragmatism, and certainly not through preferences. We have to actively grow in our love for one another.
The local church can often feel like a PUG, it can sometimes feel like a hit-and-miss type of family. but we know that it is not by chance or random placement that we are standing side by side in worship every Sunday. God put each of us in each local church body by design and for a purpose. Our job is to love one another as Christ loves the church. This is the way to maturity. This is the way.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
- Ephesians 4:11-16
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PUG is an abbreviation used in MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) and FPS games with the meaning "Pick-Up Group." It refers to a group of players formed on an ad-hoc basis, usually to carry out a specific task.