The church — a body not a bunch

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Permit me a moment, as I promised earlier, to talk about the church as a body not a bunch, an organism not an organization. Have you heard people say, “I don’t see the point of being a member of the church. It doesn’t really matter if my name is on a church roll.”?

The idea of being a member is a beautiful and organic metaphor for the fellowship and belonging we have with one another in the body of Christ. Consider the difference in saying a Baptist church is a body of baptized believers and saying a Baptist church is a bunch of people who get together regularly after being baptized as believers.

If you remove an onion from a bunch of onions you buy at Kroger’s, the other onions feel no pain, experience no loss. But if you try to take the finger nail from my little finger, I will scream with pain. My whole body feels the trauma. Our bodies are linked by nerves and blood vessels, muscles and ligaments and tendons, and not one part can be wounded without the whole body feeling the pain.

You can buy “dismemberment” insurance to compensate you if you should lose a limb. Your arms, legs, hands and feet, e.g. are “members” of your body. So when we talk about being baptized into the body of Christ we are talking about that wonderful and mysterious unity we have in Christ. We are remembering Paul’s words in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 where we are told there must be no jealousy in the body with the hand having no use for the foot, or the eye not appreciating the importance of the ear.

This is not an easy thing to experience. It is a real thing, this unity in Christ, but it has to be treasured and protected. It can be marred and destroyed. But when the pastor and the people are all praying for the unity of the body in the Spirit of Christ and everyone is seeking to honor one another, carry one another’s burdens, and refuse to undermine by gossip and rumor the unity of the body… then a beautiful reality begins to show itself and people are drawn to Christ because of the way his people, “love one another.”

Evangelist Larry Walker, years ago shared a poem with my church and I remember this one line: In the church, when one of us cries, we all taste the salt.

When that is true, it is a powerful witness to the glory and grace of God, to the fellowship the Spirit can produce and the love which is shed abroad in our hearts because we have been loved enough that Jesus Christ would die for us.

CRW

 

3 Responses to “The church — a body not a bunch”

  1. Paul Burleson Says:

    Charles,

    As an old friend of yours I want to say..”Well said.”

    This is, IMHO, the major problem with much of the lack of unity in the Body. The Body is viewed as an organization rather than an Organism. This creates a necessity to “bring about” unity, of which the biblical materials never speak, rather than seeking to “maintain the unity” the Spirit has already created, which is the biblical command in Ephesians.

    This failure to emphasize the Church as an Organism.. and the acceptance of the Church as an Organization only.. also makes excluding some because of doctrines.. viewed slightly different by those doing the excluding.. grounds for that separation. Whereas, if the unity of the Body is based on the spiritual DNA that is present because of “calling Jesus Lord,” [the new birth] we can disagree over lesser truths but our ground of unity is Christ and Him crucified.

    We can even choose to gather around being in agreement in some of those lesser doctrines as we Baptist do, myself included, and love the local group with which we are a part. But this does NOT assume others are wrong, less than, in sin, and a host of other things I’m reading some Southern Baptists saying about non-baptists today.

    If we ever DO actually maintain unity in the Body, it will be BECAUSE Jesus is our level ground, not our similarities that draw us together in our small groups. It WILL be our respect of those who share our true DNA spiritually. But what do you and I know? That’s just an old Baptist idea that isn’t in vogue much today. 🙂

  2. David Lowrie Says:

    Charles,

    I agree with you and Paul. I did my doctoral work in organizational systems. One simple profound lesson from this study I took home was the fact that organizations were living breathing organism. During the industrial age too often we viewed organizations like machines that when a part goes back you simply replace it. The harsh reality is that is faulty thinking. As with modern medicine we can not do a “hip” replacement, but it is a very painful experience.

    You mention how unity comes as a pastor and the people pray together and stand against gossip etc… This is so true. I would simply add that often we must get up off our knees and “embrace our conflicts” and work toward “win/win” solutions that take us to deeper levels of unity and synergy.

    Paul is so right Jesus is the ONE who holds all things together. I pray His presence in our lives will call us to greater expressions of unity in the years to come. May we be ONE so the whole world will see the glory of our Lord.

    David Lowrie

  3. spiritualsamurai Says:

    Dr. Wade,

    This is a request that is sincere and your response to this request will never be ridiculed or used in any way maliciously by this blogger.

    Did you enjoy the farwell party? Would you, if you have the time, blog about this experience?

    Thank you…

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