the weblog of Alan Knox

Body life

Posted by on Jul 31, 2009 in books, community, service | 2 comments

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post called “Body life.” I thought about this post recently when I was talking about and thinking about living discipleship. What do I mean by “living discipleship”? I mean discipling in “everyday” life, instead of viewing discipleship (or community or worship etc.) as taking place in specific times at specific places on specific days.

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Body life

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?


2 Comments

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  1. 7-31-2009

    Alan,

    I think body life/community may be the single most important issue the church in America faces. I have seen very little of it and have not experienced very much of it comparing it to what we see in scripture.

    If we really had NT body life, I believe the church would have more impact on both the saints and those who are lost.

    “How has God used you to demonstrate “body life” to others and to grow others?”

    We have started a home fellowship in our home this year. This has opened the door to experiencing some body life. We are learning to serve one another and get involved in each others lives. We are generally more geographically close as compared to our Sunday morning experience where we are scattered over a very large area, some families as far as an hour drive from one another.

    The jury is still out on whether I am “demonstrating” “body life” to others with our small group. I hope I am. However, it takes a total paradigm shift to break that independent spirit that we as Americans have. Especially as home schoolers. “By God, we are strong independent families and we don’t need anybody!”

    I don’t think we can use our culture as an excuse for not living in community. Most of us are afraid of what this community life would mean. We might have give something up. Maybe our favorite TV program……

    Our institutional church paradigm insulates us from our real need for body life. It provides walls of protection for us. We really don’t know how bad we need body life. It’s like a good steak; unless you’ve had one, you don’t know what your missing.

    Body life just like family life can be uncomfortable and just plain hard work. You have to die to self. You have to serve.

  2. 8-1-2009

    Jack,

    I agree that “body life” is one of the most important issues facing the church today. For the most part, I don’t think believers know what it means to live in community in Christ.

    Thanks for the examples!

    -Alan