A friend of mine at work likes to use the word, “fungible”. You can read a dictionary definition at the link below, but in general, my definition is “interchangeable”. Two things are fungible if you can swap one out for the other, with no impact on the outcome.
If you’re really thirsty when you get home, a glass or a mug are fungible, since you can fill up either of them, take a drink, and quench your thirst. If someone gives you an important phone number or address, a pencil or pen is fungible (as long as you have a piece of paper – otherwise, the pen will show up better when you write on your hand).
However, not everything is fungible. Some Ford people won’t drive a Chevy (even if it’s a rental), and vice versa. Either a cheeseburger or a salad can stave off hunger, but they’re not the same. A hammer and a wrench are both classified as tools (and I’ve used both as a prybar, in a pinch), but sometimes you need one or the other.
In the same way, the body of Christ is made up of people who each have their own contributions:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NASB
While many of us may share the same spiritual gifts as others around us, we each have a part to play. God has prepared good works for each of us:
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10 NASB
As a result, I don’t think that the people who make up the body of Christ are fungible. Even when there is overlap between our respective capabilities and ministries, I believe that each Christian has a contribution to make, based on his or her combination of gifts, talents, resources, experiences, current location, and opportunities.
When someone needs help – whether material, emotional, social, or otherwise – sometimes the right person to step in is you…or me. Not every opportunity is meant for either of us, but certain opportunities are meant for exactly one of us. Today, there is probably a need from someone else that you are meant to fill.
It’s at this point that some of us check out, or go into defensive mode (“shields up!”). When a pastor or teacher talks about everyone having a role in God’s plan, we start to hear voices telling us that we don’t have anything to contribute. It’s easy to think that we are somehow the exceptions – that we don’t have anything to offer to the body of Christ.
If we’re honest, though: When we think that – we’re wrong. We may not know God’s plan for us, or what He has pre-qualified us to do, but if we believe we don’t have anything to offer (usually because we are comparing ourselves to someone else), we probably need to look a little closer – or just step out, do what we can, and trust God to make use of what He leads us to do.
Even if we serve in roles with many others (like welcoming visitors to church, or passing an offering basket), we bring something unique. We may present a reliable face to those who come to our church. We might be learning subtle cues to communicate with the other ushers when serving the congregation. Or, we may be called to minister to others who serve alongside us. Alternatively, our role may be outside of the church building (and, in fact, most Christians probably have at least part of their role, there).
We can spend too much time trying to “figure out” what God has in mind for us. Or, we could just follow His leading, listen for His course corrections, and watch Him work. Remember that no one else’s part in God’s plan is fungible with your own role, so be sure that you’re trying to make use of the opportunities to do exactly what you were made to do.