the weblog of Alan Knox

Body life…

Posted by on Feb 8, 2007 in books, community, service | 13 comments

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. God’s will is that the Church and each member within it attain “the full measure of perfection found in Christ” (Eph. 4:13). God wants spiritual growth-to-maturity in the Church. As the Church thus grows, it will accomplish God’s plan to make known “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God… to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (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 community… The Holy Spirit ministers to us, in large measure, through each other. This is what Paul is talking about when he says “we 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 work” (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?


13 Comments

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  1. 2-8-2007

    For the most part, I believe this type of “body life” flourishes more naturally in the context of “small groups.” However, I think there is another aspect of “body life” that requires a broader expression, both on a congregational (“large group”) basis, and inter-congregational (and inter-denominational) basis.

    I think Bill Beckham, in “The Second Reformation” (if you are familiar with that), makes this point well in his illustration of the “two-winged church.”

  2. 2-8-2007

    Alan -

    This is precisely something that the Lord taught me through my last pregnancy. It was a difficult pregnancy — healthy, but hard for me. I had to bow out of everything I was doing with our church. We were a new church start and since Brandon is one of the pastors and I am a “doer” I had taken on a lot.

    To make a long story short, I had virtually no energy and what little energy I did have I was spending on church-related things rather than on my family. The Lord so gently showed that to me and I was saddened that I had come to that point. I was actually putting the church above my own family! I couldn’t believe it! So I went “cold-turkey” and stopped everything I was doing (again, it was a lot and some of it quite “vital” to all we were doing!).

    No one (in our “local church”)except Brandon and one dear friend of mine understood. No one. Suddenly I was the outcast, the one who didn’t care, the one who wasn’t serving the Lord. Let me remind you — I was pregnant and having a difficult time – HELLO!

    After our baby was born I concentrated on being the mama that she and my older daughter needed. It was also a very difficult time for me personally as the Lord was taking me through a winter season of underlying growth and life while He stripped everything away except Him. I felt like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet (and I did have someone try to take that from me!).

    We have mid-week services (another post entirely) and I was not able to get to them because our baby is very set in her ways and it’s best for everyone that she be in her own bed by 8 p.m. (she’s NOT very adaptable). Do you know that was also not understood? How could one of the pastor’s wives not be involved in the “life of the church”??? UGH! It all leaves such a yucky taste in me just recalling it all.

    I realized through that time that I am serving the Lord every single day, every single minute — I am a wife and a mama and I homeschool (again, I was having a difficult pregnancy and homeschooling, then had a new very-unadaptable-baby and was homeschooling, etc……) and I take care of our home. Not to mention that during that time I was also ministering to a couple of friends who were going through some things.

    Okay, I am so long-winded LOL … but I have known since going through all of that the Lord wants me to take my own experiences with “the church” and use them to show women how to shake off the man-made burdens of “being involved in the life of the church”.

    Changing diapers is ministering and serving, teaching school is ministering and serving, washing dishes is ministering and serving, doing laundry is ministering and serving.

    Anything outside of what you know God has called you to do without a doubt (i.e. if you’re married, it’s to be a wife or husband, if you have children, it’s to be a mother or father) should be from the overflow, from anything extra that you might have to give, not the other way around.

    We in the church place so many heavy burdens on people that they cannot possibly carry by insisting that they “be involved in the life of the church” publicly … many times to the detriment of their own families (how many times have you heard stories about preachers’ families wishing their father/husband would spend more time with them?). Oh, how sad it is that the church has made it seem that unless one is teaching a SS class or singing in the choir then one isn’t serving the Lord.

    Okay, I did jump back onto my soapbox here … so sorry ;-) … getting down now …

    Blessings!

    ~Heather

  3. 2-8-2007

    Alan,
    A few weeks ago I stopped by my wife’s school (she is a 4th grade teacher) to pick up my daughters. They are students at the Christian school where she teaches. While I was waiting in her room, I noticed that her floor needed to be vacuumed. At their school, the teachers are responsible for the clean-up in their own rooms. So, I checked around until I found a vacuum cleaner, then I vacuumed anc cleaned her room for her.

    I remember thinking as I pushed that loud old machine, “This is just as much of a real, meaningful ministry as anything else that I would do that day … for any church member.”

    My thinking about ministry to my own family has never been the same.

    Perhaps we need to start re-thinking this whole “body life” idea right under our own ministerial roofs.

    Geoff

  4. 2-8-2007

    David,

    I’m not familiar with Bill Beckham or The Second Reformation. I think I understand what you are saying. I would probably say it something lke this: “Body life” flourishes through real relationship.

    Heather,

    You do not have to apologize. I’m glad that you shared part of your story with us. The church has a way of making people feel guilty for not serving in “acceptable” ways. Of course, the only “acceptable” service is the service performed in obedience to God with love toward others. You may bring your soapbox any time you visit my blog.

    Geoff,

    It sounds like God used you to demonstrate “body life” with a vacuum cleaner. Please don’t let my wife hear that. Thank you for stopping by and sharing how God used you.

    -Alan

  5. 2-8-2007

    Alan,

    Bill Beckham is an ex-IMB (FMB) missionary, who became one of the “leading lights” in the Cell Church movement back in the 80s and 90s. His book “The Second Reformation” is sort of the philosophical thesis upon which Ralph Neighbour and others based their praxis.

    For, the most part, in my opinion, pretty good stuff.

  6. 2-8-2007

    Oh yeah. The “two-winged church” refers to the “small group” (or cells) and the “large group” (or celebration), the idea being that a bird with just one wing can’t fly.

  7. 2-8-2007

    David,

    I do not have a problem with the concept of “small groups” and “large groups”, as long as we recognized that the church is not defined by numbers. Either group should see itself as and live together as the church. Without “body life”, either group would be dead, and thus, not the body of Christ.

    -Alan

  8. 2-8-2007

    Great Post Alan. I wrote a post on body life once on my blog. If I have worked out the whole linking thing it is here

    Anyway, it was inpactful for us to go through the whole CP process with our team and learn more of what God really intends our relationships to be about.

  9. 2-8-2007

    Strider,

    Thank you for the comment, and for linking to your post. It is very encouraging, especially the part about the young believers teaching from Scripture. They were certainly demonstrating a “living” body.

    -Alan

  10. 2-8-2007

    I appreciated you comment heather… i am in that same boat right now. Renata emailed me this link to your comment.

  11. 2-8-2007

    Drea,

    Good to “see” you again. Welcome to my blog.

    -Alan

  12. 2-10-2007

    Alan,

    I wrote something in a similar vein last night/this morning at my site, Prophetic Musings. I’ve been reading Basic Christianity by Stott this month and it’s really a great insight. “Being the body” is important to all of us. We have to be intertwined together with each otehr and serve where we are called.

    Like David said in the first comment, we do need a broader expression of body life between churches and communities, not just within our little group. That’s something we’re really starting to emphasize in our little church.

  13. 2-10-2007

    Clay,

    Thanks for the comment and for visiting my blog. I’d love to hear about the broader ranging “body life” that you are witnessing.

    -Alan

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