Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission? – Part 1

Recently, I started watching a new show on Netflix entitled: Manhunt. The show chronicles the last few years that the FBI tracked and ultimately apprehended the UNA Bomber. If you remember, the UNA Bomber alluded the FBI for close to 20 years as he carried out a serial mail bombing campaign. The turning point in the case was when Ted’s brother turned in a tip to the FBI after the UNA Bomber’s Manifesto was published. He believed the language in the Manifesto sounded similar to that of his brother’s. That tip and the letters they provided that Ted wrote them gave the rookie agent Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald the material needed to link Ted K. to the UNA Bomber. A link he formed through linguistic analysis.

While the show primarily follows “Fitz” and his journey to catch the UNA Bomber, what you discover is that he didn’t do it alone. He wasn’t a one man show. He was just one of hundreds of agents assigned to a task force that worked together to bring Ted to justice.

In a similar way the body of Christ — the church — is made up of many different people. In order for the church to accomplish its mission to make disciples, all its parts must work together, just like all the parts of the FBI task force had to work together to bring the UNA Bomber to justice. Why is that?

Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?

In order to answer that question, the first thing we need to understand is that:

(1) All Christians are Members of the Body of Christ (vs. 12-20; 27)

Paul writing to the church in Corinth says in chapter 12 starting in verse 12,

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:12–13)

Skip down to verse 27,

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Co 12:27)

So by the very nature of our salvation, we are all members of the body of Christ. We may be from vastly different backgrounds, but in Christ we form one body.

The body comprises both the universal and local church.

The universal church is basically all those who have professed Jesus as their Lord and Savior in the world.

The local church is comprised of those who are a part of the universal church, but they form a local expression of the universal church as they gather together in covenant community with one another for the purpose of worshipping God and making disciples.

The local church to which Paul is writing in chapter 12.

We know that is the community to which he writes because his letter is directed to a particular church. The Corinthian church, which is a local church. In verse 14, he continues when he says,

“…the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Co 12:14–20)

The local church is a body.

The body metaphor Paul uses is genius because it’s something to which we all can relate. Almost every task we do — whether it is eating, drinking, dressing ourselves, playing a sport, driving the car or tractor, whatever it may be — our entire body is active and working together to accomplish that task. You see, it takes more than a foot to drive a car. Our legs, trunk, harms, eyes, brain and more all have to be engaged in the act as well. Just as our body parts form one body and are all needed to accomplish our daily tasks, the many different parts of the universal church form a local church that must work together to accomplish it’s God given tasks.

There is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.

You see, the church, the local church, has many members, which means we can’t form a church on our own, nor can we be a church unto ourselves. We need one another.

When I was in high school, I played soccer for the school I attended. Talent wise the team was really split. There were about half of us who really wanted to play soccer and half who were required by the football coach to play a spring sport to keep in shape for football.

I don’t want to dog on those guys too much. I mean they were just doing what the football coach required. But, as you could probably imagine, the football players who didn’t care anything about soccer, but just played because they had to, weren’t very good. But even though those guys weren’t very good, even though those guys often let us down, we needed them. We wouldn’t have been a team without them. Even if half of us were all-stars when it came to dribbling and scoring, there is no way we would have won a game because there would be no defense, no goalie, no one to pass the ball to when we were trapped by the other team.

Just as we needed the rest of the players on the soccer team, no matter how good or bad they were, we need the body of Christ. We need one another. You see, there is no such thing as an isolated disciple of Jesus.

Now, that doesn’t mean that people don’t isolate themselves from the body of Christ. They most certainly do. There are a lot of people out there who think all they need is Jesus and their Bible, and maybe a podcast or two. But we need more than that. We need each other. And that’s what Paul is really hammering home here.

Why do we need each other?

Well, we need each other because we all have been given different gifts. Starting in verse 28 Paul mentions these gifts,

“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Co 12:28–30)

Now, we don’t have the time to go through each of these gifts, but what I want you to see is that no one person possesses all these gifts, which means that we all have a part to play. We must play that part in the context of the local church with others who compliment our gifts.

The reason we all have different gifts is because that’s the way God has designed it.

Look at verse 18 again. Paul says,

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (1 Co 12:18)

In His infinite wisdom and providence God designed us to depend on one another. I believe this design not only originates in the mind of God but in God Himself. Just recently we have been studying the Trinity on Wednesday nights. Throughout that study we have learned that the Father, Son, and Spirit have existed in an eternal interdependent relationship with one another. Within in that interdependent relationship, each member of the Trinity — though all are God — have different roles that they fulfill. Those roles compliment the other members.

In some sense, the local church is similar in that design, which means that you could say that the local church is an earthly expression of the interdependent nature of the Trinity. So just as the Trinity depends on one another to fulfill different roles, those in the church depend on one another to fulfill different roles as well.

The local church, then, exists as an interdependent body because God has designed it that way.

A design that seems to mimic the very nature of God Himself.

God has not only designed the local church, He also builds the local church.

In His providence, God takes members of the universal church and specifically places them in a local church based on the gifts He has given them. I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but that means you aren’t at the church you are at by accident. God led you to and placed you in that specific church at this specific time. He placed you there because your gifts compliment others in your church. In other words, He has given you to your church because you are needed. When you aren’t there. When you don’t play your part, it is felt. Look at verses 21 and 22,

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,” (1 Co 12:21–22)

In the immediate context of the Corinthian church, Paul is seeking to unify. But as you can see, he also tells us that we all must play our part. Each one of us, then, are indispensable to one another and to the mission that God has given us.

Question for Reflection

  • Do you believe you are God’s gift to your church and the church does not operate properly without you?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: Why is it necessary for the body of Christ to work together to accomplish the church’s mission?

What Does it Look Like to Live in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel of Christ?

When you think about what it means to be a good citizen of our country someone like Louie Zamperini may come to mind. A while back I read a book by Laura Hillenbrand entitled Unbroken in which she chronicles Louie’s life.

Louie was drafted into the armed services in his twenties to fight in WWII, and he ended up in the Air Force. Before Louie accepted his draft orders, he was an amazing runner, an olympic hopeful, someone who was on pace to run a mile in under 4:00 minutes. If you are wondering, that’s fast, really fast! You have to sustain a speed of 15 mph in order to run a 4 minute mile.

Even though Louie was fast, he believed serving his country was more important than his own hopes, dreams, and aspiration, so he took up the fight alongside his fellow servicemen. I don’t want spoil his story for you. Let’s just say his time in the Air Force was no cake walk. A downed airplane, lost at sea, POW camp, and ultimately forgiveness. These are the threads that run through the book and Louie’s life.

When we look at a man like Louie, we can all agree that he is a good citizen of this country. He put others first. He considered the welfare of the nation over his own. He is someone who lives in a manner worthy of being an American. 

But what about a Christian?

What does it look like to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?

Paul tells us what it looks like to live in a manner worthy of the gospel in his letter to the Philippians. Beginning in verse 27 of chapter 1 we read, 

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that [I want you to take note of what comes next because this is where he starts to tell us what it means to live in a manner worthy of the gospel] you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” 

(Php 1:27–30)

From the text above, we gather that living in a manner worthy of the gospel looks like us:

(1) Standing firm with one another in the faith.

In order for that to happen, we must not only understand the core doctrines of Christianity and the gospel, but we must also be willing to contend, to strive side by side for the truth of the faith. We must work together to spread the gospel and promote our faith, even in the face of persecution. Persecution is going to come. When it does, we must be ready and willing to take it head on. In order to do that, we need others standing next to us. No soldier goes into battle by themselves. We must not enter into the battle alone either. To be sure, living out the Christian faith is to live in the middle of a war, a spiritual war. We must not be naive or ignorant of that. We must come together, then, with one another striving side by side for the faith.

(2) Living in unity with one another.

Following up what he just said beginning in verse 1 of chapter 2 Paul writes,

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” 

(Php 2:1–2)

Now, one of the things I believe Paul is trying to get across here is that the gospel should bring us together, and it should do that because we are all saved in the same way. We all need all of Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. That’s because we are all bankrupt sinners who can do nothing to get ourselves out of debt.

Along with holding our need for Christ’s righteousness up as a means to bring us together. Paul also brings the Spirit into the equation. He says that we all have the same Spirit working in us. The Spirit provides us with encouragement and comfort. He helps us to grow in our Christian walk. As well as equips us for the work of ministry among other things.

Having experienced the same salvation, encouragement, comfort, and work of the Spirit, we should all live in unity with one another. No one is better than anyone else. We are all in God’s family. We must all live as family. We must live as those who are unified with one another.

(3) We must consider others to be more significant than ourselves.

Paul is not only hinting at that idea in verses 1 and 2, when he calls us to unity, but he is specifically telling us that here. We can’t think ourselves better than someone else and then seek unity with them. It doesn’t work like that. Paul is not only hinting at this idea in verses 1 and 2, but starting in verse 3 he explicitly tells us that we must consider others more significant than ourselves.

After telling us what we must think of others, he follows that up with the example of Christ. Let’s look at that. Paul writes,

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 (Php 2:3–11)

Now there is a lot in there, but for the sake of today’s post, what I want you to see is that we must have the mind of Christ.

One thing that having the mind of Christ means is that we don’t think of ourselves as more significant than others. Instead, we humble ourselves. We think others more significant than us. That type of thinking should lead us to care and sacrifice for others. 

I believe, if we all took this command to heart, then conflict and disunity in the church would cease. But conflict continues, which tells us that we haven’t taken this command to heart. Instead, we continue to think about and do what is best for self.We care more about our own comfort, desires, and wants than others. But if we want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, then we must humble ourselves, counting others more significant than ourselves.

Closely related to the last and contained in that grouping of verses is the idea of self-sacrifice, which tells us that living in a manner worthy of the gospel mean that:

(4) We must serve and love others self-sacrificially

Jesus is the prime example of self-sacrifice. Paul is explicitly calling that out in these verses by telling us that Jesus left His heavenly home, came to earth, and died for us. Jesus is, then, the chief example of self-sacrifice.

When it is hard for us to serve or love others, we should think about Jesus. How He loved and served us when we were unlovable. How He gave Himself for a people who were His enemies, so that we might experience the blessing of salvation. That’s self-sacrifice. That’s counting others more significant than yourself right there. Jesus died so that His enemies could experience the blessing of eternal life.

If we want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we must do the same. We must serve and love others self-sacrificially.

Lastly, we learn that those who want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ must shine as lights.

(5) We must live in such a way as to shine as lights in this dark world.

Look at the text starting in verse 14,

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” 

(Php 2:14–18)

In these verses, Paul shares a number of things with the Philippians. One of which is that he wants them to live in such a way that they are able to shine as lights in this dark world. When the world looks at us, they should see a people who are different.

What differences should they see? Paul points out some of the differences that should be apparent in the lives of those who are Christians. He says that:

  • They don’t grumble, nor do they dispute with one another.
  • They live in such a way that they are considered blameless and innocent.
  • No one can bring a charge against them.
  • We also see that they hold fast to the Word.
  • In other words, they aren’t wishy-washy about their faith, about their beliefs. They don’t allow the culture to sway them one way or the other.
  • As well as they are a people who are consistently growing in Christ.

These, then, are some of the ways that we might shine as lights in the world and live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you living in a manner worthy of the gospel?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon: What Does it Look Like to Live in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel of Christ?

In What Type of Community Must the Church Live? – Part 3

As Christians we are supposed to live in authentic and interdependent community. If you want to know what that looks like and why, check out my last two posts here and here.

While I believe I’ve argued well for why we must live in authentic and interdependent community and what it looks like, that doesn’t mean we know how to develop that type of community. Today, that’s what I’ll focus on –– how we develop authentic and interdependent community with one another.

How do we develop authentic and interdependent community with one another?

We can start by looking at what took place in the early church. Looking at Acts 2, we see that the early church:

  • Immersed their lives in God’s Word together.
  • Prayed together.
  • Shared each other’s burdens.
  • They laughed, they cried, they parented, they ate together.
  • They celebrated the Lord’s Supper together, proclaiming in a visible way to the world that Jesus is their Savior.
  • They served each other and the community.
  • They sacrificed for one another.
  • They made sure each other’s needs were met.
  • They extended hospitality to those around them.
  • They were on mission together, seeking to win others to Christ and helping each other grow in their Christian walk.

These are the things the early church did.

You are a necessary part of the body of Christ.

Along with doing these things, they saw themselves as a necessary part of the body of Christ. They knew that they were missed. They knew that they were hindering the church’s growth and mission when they failed to participate.

You must be willing to share your lives with others.

As well as they were willing to share their lives with each other. They were open. They were transparent. They shared more than their physical needs with others. They also shared their spiritual needs.

So we must not only participate in the same activities as they did, but we must see ourselves as a necessary part of the body, and we must be willing to share our lives with one another. Those you attend church with should know how to pray for you. Not just physically but spiritually. They should know your fears, your struggles, your joys.

I know hearing that probably sounds a bit invasive. But that’s what it takes to live in authentic and interdependent community with one another. If we always keep one another at arms length, if we never let anyone in, we aren’t really depending on them. Instead we are depending on ourselves. But that’s not how a body operates. Your arm doesn’t depend on itself. Instead, it depends on the rest of the body in order to work. We must do the same. We must depend on one another in order to live in authentic and interdependent community.

Conclusion

How are you doing with that? Do you see yourself as someone who just lives in proximity to others? Or are you living in or at least working towards living in authentic and interdependent community with your local church members?

If we are going to be authentic disciples, then we must also live in interdependent community. We must do it, not only for our own spiritual growth, but for the spiritual growth of others, and the furtherance of Jesus’ kingdom. So we must be disciples who live authentically and interdependently with one another in biblical community.

Resources

Post developed from my sermon In what type of community must the church live?