Monday, January 25, 2016

Body Metaphor and the Maturing Church

Anyone who has had a foot pain turn into a knee pain morph into a back pain and migrate to the neck, knows something of the body’s intricacies. When one part suffers, the whole unit compensates. Not only does this speak of the interconnected nature of the body, it gives an ideal picture of the church. 

Sadly, when we gather together as a worshiping church, the essential sense of unity may not exist. Too many people dance in and out congregational life with little sense of involvement, intimacy, or missional impact.

In an age of gross individualism and family breakdown, the pictures of body and bride fail to grip our imaginations. Organic metaphors for the church have lost their shock value. However, these word pictures leveraged by the apostle Paul speak to the intimate, interconnected nature of the local church. Members share a family identity (and Jesus is the Husband). Members constitute a living, moving, working frame (and Jesus is the Head).

Of all the metaphors he compiles for the church in Ephesians – temple, people, army, body, and bride – the body imagery stands out.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 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 in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16, ESV).

The body grows.
The body grows together.
The body grows together in ministry.
The body grows together in ministry toward Christlike maturity.

This powerful teaching on the church strikes against independent and disconnected way of being Christ’s body. Call it cultural. Call it consumerism. Whatever you call it, a church that does not function as an equipping body is at best childish, at worst, counterfeit.

Like Paul, I long to see Jesus grow our churches – both up an out, deep and wide. I want to feel the shock waves of local congregations re-incarnating the body imagery—connecting people to Jesus, one another, and ministry opportunities within and outside the church complex.

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