This is a great passage calling for the unity we should have as Christians, especially as it is calling for a unity built on diversity—something that is too often overlooked in today’s calls for unity. And just as a local church demands variety in order to function at its best, so the Church does as well.
This may be the best known Biblical metaphor. A church is like a body. However, it is just that—a metaphor. The Church is not literally a body, just as it is not a temple or any other figurative description that is applied to it. Like any other metaphor, this one is only as perfect as it communicates what it is intended. Here, Paul says that all members of the church are unique and necessary. However, we do not (like a literal body part) have only one or a limited set of functions.
The biggest problem with today’s Spiritual Gifts teaching is the way people use it as an excuse. “Sorry, my Spiritual Gift is teaching, so I can’t possibly do ‘menial labor,’ try asking a servant.”
A better metaphor for the way church members should interact and function might be football. A quarterback’s function is to throw the ball or hand it off, but a coach would be pretty upset if the quarterback failed to attempt a tackle when it was needed. We all have our specialties and roles, but we also need to step up when needed. After all, the power that we channel is not limited by our giftings or abilities.
In fact, the body metaphor might be extended in today’s church to describe a huge problem we face. Every member should ideally have a role to play in the church’s mission. The problem today is a lot of members see their role as sitting still and consuming; storing up all kinds of spiritual nourishment. That would be the role of fat. Today’s church is woefully overweight. American church growth models, in fact, seem designed to birth fat churches. Perhaps God’s model would be for churches to reach a certain size capable of the best operation followed by reproduction… churches birthing churches. Instead we see successful churches as the biggest ones, regardless if the members are actually ministering or not.