In The Community of the King (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1977), Howard Snyder describes what he calls “body life” of the church. Consider the following quotes:
God does not use the Church as a lifeless object, for this would be contrary to all he wants to do within the Church. Godâ€™s will is that the Church and each member within it attain â€œthe full measure of perfection found in Christâ€ (Eph. 4:13). God wants spiritual growth-to-maturity in the Church. As the Church thus grows, it will accomplish Godâ€™s plan to make known â€œthrough the church, the manifold wisdom of Godâ€¦ to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realmsâ€ (Eph. 3:10). (pg 69)
Too often the Church has been seen more as a mere collection of saved souls than as a community of interacting personalities. Christian growth has been a matter of individual soul culture rather than the building of the community of the Spirit. (pg 74)
Spiritual growth occurs best in a caring communityâ€¦ The Holy Spirit ministers to us, in large measure, through each other. This is what Paul is talking about when he says â€œwe will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its workâ€ (Eph. 4:15-16). This interaction of the many members in one body is body life. (pg 75)
Interestingly, science tells us that a living organism grows, while a dead organism does not grow. This is what God is telling us through Paul in Ephesians 4:11-16. That growth is measured according to the person of Jesus Christ.
But, that does not mean that “body life” and growth are always measured in giant steps or even in public demonstrations. Consider what Dave Black said on his blog yesterday (Wednesday, February 7, 7:08 pm):
The church is not the extravagant structure on main street. It is Mary serving breakfast to her family, John taking the 7:30 train to work, April in her chemistry class, and Josh in his suburban business office. The church is a living, pulsating organism. This is a crucial issue, though it is frequently brushed under the carpet.
Too often, when we think of and speak of “body life” and “body growth” we either think of numbers or we think of grand expressions of “ministry” as a vocation. Sometimes we think of “body life” as our “church job”, whether we are paid or not. Our ideas of a living body are usually centered around positions such as Bible study teachers, ushers, deacons, preachers, greeters, or nursery workers. While many with these “positions” are laboring to serve people and the Lord, others rest on their title or position, with little, if any, thought to their cooperation in the life of the body of Christ.
But have you thought about how “serving breakfast” can demonstrate “body life”? How about riding the train to work, taking a class, or working in an office? Our location does not negate our presence in the body of Christ. Could you imagine changing a diaper causing the growth of the body? Yet, that is just what happens when these activities are seen as service to others and to the Lord.
Can you demonstrate the “manifold wisdom of God” while shopping? Can you help others “grow up into Him” while walking around your neighborhood? Can you “build the community” while driving your children to their activities? Or, is your idea of “body life” centered around a specific location at a specific time?
How has “body life” and growth been demonstrated to you? How has God used you to demonstrate “body life” to others and to grow others? In what areas of life do you think God may want to use you to grow his church – perhaps in areas you have never considered before?