I have been reflecting on the body of Christ for quite sometime. This past week I was reading in The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and it articulated many of my thoughts in a clear manner. The following post will contain several points which I have been reflecting on about the church and it will be led by thoughts from the book.
1.Sunday services are not the body of Christ but rather a vital TOOL and ministry OF the body of Christ.
What is the body of Christ? Every single believer, at ALL times, wherever you ARE, carries the body of Christ within you. Again, as I said in How to be Strong, we often get this wrong because we view Sunday service as our time to meet with God and then WE leave to our regular lives, where we "try" to be Christians FOR God.
Here is a quote from The Cost of Discipleship on pg 258 "This is how the Church invades the life of the world and conquers territory for Christ. For whatever is "in Christ" has ceased to be subject to the world of sin and law. No law of the world can interfere with this fellowship. The realm of Christian love is subject to Christ, not to the world." When you enter the world in your everyday life and do it "in Christ" (Ephesians 2:10) you carry with you the authority of the kingdom of God. You have power and authority over the world of sin and death and you carry within you the power of love of Christ into those dark places! This is how we bring the kingdom of God into this world!
2. Sunday services have a place in the ministry to the body of Christ but we must not confuse its purpose. Cost of Discipleship pg 250 "The Word of God seeks a Church to take unto itself. It has its being in the Church. It enters the Church by its own self-initiated movement. It is wrong to suppose that there is so to speak a Word on the one hand and a Church on the other, and that it is the task of the preacher to take that Word into his hands and move it so as to bring it into the Church and apply it to the Church's needs. On the contrary, the Word moves of its own accord, and all the preacher has to do is to assist that movement and try to put no obstacles in its path. The Word comes forth to take men to itself; the apostles knew that... It is this same Word which now makes its entry into the Church." It is God that desires to speak to us through His Word and He has a message for us through our preachers. This is one method by which God still speaks and ministers to His body.
3. God has established specific ministries TO the body of Christ.
There can be no denying that there are specific ministries appointed to minister, uplift, serve and encourage the body of Christ. Cost of Discipleship pg 253, "Apostles, prophets, teachers, overseers, deacons, elders, presidents, and helpers (1 Cor 12:28, Eph 2:20, 4:11) are ministers OF the Church, the Body of Christ... Thus, although the Church is at liberty to adapt the form of its order according to contemporary needs, any attack on that order from without means an attack on the visible form of the Body of Christ itself." I believe it is important to recognize the order of the church and to appreciate that which God has appointed to take care of and minister to the body. In American society today, I think there is an attack against established authority and I see it quietly and slowly leaking into the church. If God has not given you a ministry to the body of Christ in one of these forms it does NOT mean you are inferior or not needed, instead we should appreciate, support and honor these other parts of the body without jealously or feelings of inferiority. God has appointed these specific roles and to try and function without them I believe is dangerous.
4. Every part of the body is important and needed.
I Corinthians 12 discusses how the body of Christ is like the body. How each person in the body is a different part and that we can't all be the same part and that we need each other. The truth seems so simple and obvious but I think that the body of Christ does not "get it" and as a result the body of Christ is paralyzed in many ways. As I have walked through Christianity I have met many people who feel "insufficient" in Christ. They are not doing enough because they are comparing themselves to other Christians. They see people who can evangelize with ease and they know they could never do that and as a result the go to church and they sit in the pews feeling inadequate and ashamed. I think this is sad and it is currently a very effective strategy of the enemy to paralyze the body of Christ.
Let's read I Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. Now to who? EACH ONE. Every person in the body of Christ has a role to play and it will look and act and feel as different as an eye is to a hand to ear to a foot. Each of those body parts act differently because they serve a different role.
Last year in our Sonlight curriculum, I read the biography of George Muller with my kids. He took care of thousands of orphans in Britain in the 1800's. The amazing thing about him is he didn't ever ask for a penny. He believed and trusted God to provide and guess what God always provided. But do you know what the other amazing thing was. Money and food and shelter did not appear out of thin air, not once. Every single need during this man's ministry came through real people. And George recorded every donation even if it was only a half-pence, because it mattered. Yes, George Muller had an amazing faith and God used him to do amazing things but the body of Christ was amazing too at that time. Thousands of people responded to the voice and prompting of God and brought food, milk, money at just the right time and just the right moment.
Which leads me back to the point. We are not all going to be George Muellers. We are not all going to be written down in human history to be remembered. But you know what is true, we are ALL significant and we are each needed to allow the body of Christ to function healthily.
5. You carry the body of Christ within you everyday, everywhere you go so recognize it.
The Cost of Discipleship pg 254-255 "The Church needs space not only for her liturgy and order, but also for the daily life of her members in the world. The fellowship between Jesus and his disciples covered EVERY aspect of their daily life. In the Christian life the individual disciple and the body of Jesus belong inseparably together. The first disciples learnt the truth of the saying that where their Lord is, there they must also be, and where they are, there also will their Lord be until the world comes to the end. That is why the law, which governs the life of the Body of Christ, is that where one member is, there the whole body is also."
I Corinthians 7:20-24
Each one of you should stay the way you were when God called you.
If you were a slave when God called you, do not let that bother you.
But if you can be free, then make good use of your freedom.
Those who were slaves when the Lord called them are free persons who belong to the Lord.
In the same way, those who were free when they were called are now Christ's slaves.
You all were bought at a great price, so do not become slaves of people.
Brothers and sisters, each of you should stay as you were when you were called,
and stay there with God.
Page 259 of the Cost of Discipleship "The first disciples had to leave everything to follow Jesus. Now we are told to remain where we were called. How are we to reconcile this contradiction? Only by recognizing the underlying motive both of the call of Jesus and of the exhortation of the apostle. In both cases it is the same - to bring their hearers into the Body of Christ. The only way the first disciples could enter that fellowship was by going with Jesus. But now through Word and Sacrament the body of Christ is no longer confined to a single place."
In conclusion, my prayer for this post is that it would encourage and inspire you to be the body of Christ in whatever manner and place the Lord has called you to be. I pray that you understand that if you are an everyday worker in the world, you have just as much need and importance to the body of Christ as the minster on Sunday. But that you would also recognize that the minister on Sunday has a role in encouraging and uplifting you to be who you are in the body of Christ. We all need each other to operate in a healthy manner. We carry the power of Christ in us and His desire and plan IS to invade the world through every one of His children.