Body of Christ
We have lived through four months of this new year, and I
would like to ask you a personal question, or at least as personal as you can
get in a one sided conversation in front of a group of people. How do you feel
about your body? That’s not really a strange question; Four months ago many of
us made the decision that we were going to work on some things. We were going
to eat better, get more sleep and exercise, and try to live better lives. So
four months later how are you doing?
I would imagine that most of us would rather not think about
our bodies and if we do we probably don’t think very complementary things. We
would say that our bodies are too fat or too skinny, too short or too tall, too
bumpy or too bald.
That’s what’s kind of strange about the text that was read
to us this morning. Paul says that you are the Body of Christ. Look around you;
each one of you makes up a part of the Body of Christ. As Paul reached out to
find a metaphor to adequately describe the church of Jesus Christ the one he
came back to time and time again was the comparison between the church and a
In Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians Paul, the
original theologian of the church; uses the body as a metaphor to describe what
the church is like and how it grows. In doing so, he pays the church the
highest compliment it will ever receive. Those of us who are familiar with the
Bible tend to skip over things like that without really taking the time to
think about it. We don’t usually have a good opinion of our own bodies, so we
just press ahead in the text. Paul says that the church is the body of Christ,
which is an astonishingly flexible metaphor.
In the Bible the church is compared to a vineyard, to a lamp
stand, to a building, and I believe that all of those are useful. But vineyards
don't do much for people living in Southeast Texas. Lamp stands might have
worked when this church was down on 10th street, and buildings are
nice but the risk of equating brick and mortar with a spiritual reality is a
The image of a body is something we can all relate to. The inspired
writer says that the church is a body; specifically it is the body of Christ.
And that has two very powerful implications.
First: Being the
body of Christ requires that we maintain a relentless focus on Christ.
I want you to mentally go to the shelf or the table or the bookcase
where you keep your family albums. There yet? Open one of the albums. What do
you see? Pictures of loved ones, right? Be more specific. What parts of the
body did the camera focus on when the pictures were taken?
Does your album contain picture after picture of people's
hands? Do you have an album full of foot pictures? No, we always take shots of
the head and face. Why? Because that's the primary location for a person's
physical identity. We may have struggles with names but we usually do pretty
good at remembering faces.
The Bible knows how important faces are.
Psalms 105:4 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence (or Face)
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our
hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of
The head is important because it is the primary location of
identity, but not just because it's a good place to hang a face. The head is
the seat for all decisions. Have you realized that four out of our five senses
are clustered on the head? Vision, hearing, smell, taste. And were it not for that
marvelous, complex computer we call the brain, it wouldn't matter how many nerve
endings in your fingers were sending the signal that the iron is too hot to
touch. There would be no central processing system to decode and interpret
those messages. So in a way, touch, too, is centered in the head.
Every movement of the body, from the involuntary blinking of
an eye to an athlete's spectacular diving catch in center field, is first
imagined in the brain. Every word spoken is chosen there. Every emotion we feel
is first fired in the brain.
So when we say that Christ is the head of the church, we are
saying that He is our identity and that He is our authority. Let’s go a little
deeper here for a minute. The fact that we worship by using the oldest form of
music known to humanity, A Cappella singing, is not the true mark of our
identity. It clearly sets us apart from most other churches, but it isn't who
The fact that we perform baptism by immersion for the remission
of sins is certainly important, but it isn't what identifies us.
The fact that we are autonomous, meaning we have no
denominational headquarters, we are governed by a group of volunteer leaders
called elders, and served by deacons is different from almost every other
religious group out there but once again it is not what identifies us.
Neither is the fact that we observe communion every week, we
fund our ministries exclusively through free-will offerings, we are
theologically conservative, and biblically fundamental. You see none of these
reasons make us the Church of Christ.
In fact, if all those things were true about us, and we did
not maintain a relentless focus on Jesus, we would not be the Church of Christ.
We would be the church of A Cappella singing or the church of immersion or the
church of whatever takes the place of our true source of identity.
There are a lot of church growth books out there. The
problem with a lot of those books is that they tend to focus on savvy
marketing, careful demographic studies, or brilliantly applied business
strategies to grow a huge, shiny church. You know that you can grow a big
church that fails to maintain its focus on Christ. When a church looses its
vision of Christ then it looses it’s purpose, because it fails to be the body
The second implication
to this idea that the church is the body of Christ is that relationships are
1 Corinthians 12:25 says that there may be no division in
the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
Romans 12:5 says so we, though many, are one body in
Christ, and individually members one of another.
Ephesians 4:16 says: from whom the whole
body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when
each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up
Did you notice what Paul said, builds itself up in love, you
belong to each other, care for one another. As members of the same body we
cannot help but be concerned about each other. When we remember that the church
is the body of Christ we realize that relationships are everything.
If the church were merely a business we'd have partnerships.
If it were merely an army we'd have duties. If it we were modeled on some
new-fangled technological paradigm, we'd have functions. If the church was just
one more marketing strategy we'd hold positions.
But the church is a body, so we have relationships.
Scattered all through the New Testament there are commandments and teachings
about how we relate to each other. And to be honest I don’t do as well as I
should, and some of you could say that with me.
So for the next several weeks we're going to take a
refresher course and explore some of these passages. They all have one thing --
one phrase -- in common. "One another." They are called the one
another passages. In these texts we are taught to:
Romans 16:16 -- Greet one another.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 -- Encourage one another
Galatians 6:1 - 2 -- Bear one another's burdens
Romans 15:1 - 7 -- Accept one another
Colossians 3:15 - 17 -- Admonish (confront) one another
James 5:13 - 18 -- Confess to one another
James 5:13 - 18 -- Pray for one another
John 13:34 -- Love one another
That's just the tip of the iceberg; there are dozens of one
another passages. God was trying to teach us that if we do not have
relationships then we couldn’t be a body. A body must have community, it must
be connected; if we were to separate my left hand from my body then it’s is not
only useless to the body, but it will die. We understand that physically, and
we need to understand it spiritually.
As we close today I want to say two things about
First, Real church
growth will occur in the midst of community.
The church is an organization. But it is more than that. We
are a body. An organism. God hasn't called us into an abstraction or a theory
or a paradigm. He has called us into a community. There is nothing we can do
that will be more effective than to love each other.
If we are truly interested in being the Body of Christ we
must fully commit to the body. And because we are part of the body of Christ
our marriages will last. Our families will function in healthy ways. Our
conflicts will be resolved. Our friendships will be deeper. Our commitments
will be truer.
Secondly, I believe
that real church growth can occur if we follow the Biblical Model.
Quickly I want to read to you some models of Church growth:
Acts 2:41-47 So those who received his word were
baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And
they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the
breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders
and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all
things in common. And
they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the
proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together
and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and
generous hearts, praising
God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number
day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 4:32-35 Now the full number of those who believed
were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that
belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And
with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection
of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as
many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of
what was sold and
laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
I believe that the
precedent that our first century brethren set for us is the real key to church
health, and Body Growth. It is a principal that can be demonstrated by this toy
that I recently found.
Look at this ball. I don't know what you call it but I got
it out of Rylan’s toy box. You can do all kinds of things with it. In a very
powerful way this toy represents the church. I'm going to hold my left hand
completely still and pull with my right. Did you see what happened? Even though
I only moved one part of the ball, every other part changed.
That’s the principal.
We need to understand that we are all affected by the things that affect
the other parts of this body. Or as Paul writes in Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with
those who weep.
We are told that is one part of this church suffers we will
all suffer with it, If one part rejoices we will all rejoice with it. That’s
the Biblical Model. Church that’s what we have been called to do today. Laugh with the Body when they’re happy; share
tears when they’re down. That is why we take time out of our worship every
week, to offer this invitation.
But we have been conditioned to use this time as a time to
confess the most gross and public sins in our lives. It has only become acceptable to come forward
if you have murdered someone, committed adultery, gotten pregnant, or been put
in jail. And that’s a far cry from what God inspired the Apostle to write, Laugh
with the Body when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.
While we were working in Atlanta we actually served a small
congregation on the outskirts of the suburbs.
We began to keep a record of the Baptisms, placing of membership, and
responses that occurred and we noticed something very strange. In 2002 we
averaged one response for every five services. But what we also found is that
70% of those people did not go to church with us.
You see we all have a God given desire to laugh with the
Body when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down, but we have made the
invitation something to be ashamed of. So when the desire to have someone share
the load with you gets strong enough it is easier to go to the church down the
road, down the way and offload some of your burden than it is to share it with
the Body you are a part of. That way there is less gossip, less snickering,
less questions to be answered.
I pray that Park Central is not that type of Church. I hope
that we fully understand what is fixing to happen. I dream for a day that we
will all feel close enough to laugh with the Body when they’re happy; share
tears when they’re down.
That’s the opportunity afforded to you right now. What in
your life is bringing you joy, do you feel free enough to share that with the
Body today? What in your life is causing you pain, do you feel free enough to
share that with the Body today?
Today let us take our first step into deeper community.
Paul calls us the “Body of Christ” in 1 Corinthians 12. He
says that there are stronger and weaker, presentable and less honorable parts.
What would you consider to be a weaker part of the Body of
What would you consider a stronger part?
What is a part that you would consider less honorable?
Is there any reason for a part of the body to feel
In what ways are we part of the same body?
How does Paul feel that we can avoid divisions in the church?
How can we seek