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We are the Body of Christ

Like many others, I have recently read and been blessed by Dr. Thom Rainer’s book, I am a Church Member. I’m convinced that Dr. Rainer has hit on a significant and timely issue. I am hopeful that his book will challenge believers around the world on the issue of church membership. I’d like to extend the conversation, moving from the individual to the corporate body. Because a biblical understanding of the church never ends with who I am but always leads to who WE are in Christ.

I would submit that the central image in Scripture for the church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13-14, 20, 26-27; Eph. 1:22-23, 2:19-22, 4:16; Col. 1:17, 2:19; 3:14-16). That body has many parts (1 Cor. 12:15; Rom. 12:3-5; Heb. 13:3), but each is important (1 Cor. 12:16-17; 21-25) and placed according to His will (1 Cor. 12:18; Eph. 4:12).

We are the Body of Christ.

As the body of Christ, we will remember He is the Head. Christ alone is the Head of the church; it is His church. We should always be careful about using first person pronouns with reference to the churches where we serve; it’s not my church, or yours. It’s His.

Moreover, if Christ is the head of the church, we must value authentic worship of Him. That means making sure that we guard that time, prepare ourselves spiritually for it, attend faithfully, and come prepared to worship Him and expectant to hear a Word from Him.

We are the Body of Christ.

As the body of Christ, we will stand on His Word. We believe it is His Word and that it is all His Word. His Word is living, active, and relevant. We unashamedly affirm its truth and govern our lives in accordance to it. Ultimately, to question His Word is to question His character. Imperfection does not derive from perfection.

What we do should not depend solely on our convenience or our preference. We will not ignore tradition, but neither will we be constrained by it.

We are a Bible-believing, Bible-affirming community. But, we don’t just believe the Book, we practice it! That means we will follow our church covenant rather than simply listing it in our governing documents or on a board somewhere in a closet or back room of the building.

We are the Body of Christ.

As the body of Christ, we will follow His Instructions. Those final earthly instructions given to us by our Lord (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) must reflect the passion of His church. That means, we must practice as well as preach the Great Commission. It means that evangelism and discipleship are not multiple-choice. We must plead with the Lord that we might grow deeper as well as wider.

The mission of the church is not optional. It’s already been assigned. How we carry it out may be unique in any given context, but reaching the world with the Gospel isn’t just a suggestion, it is our mandate. We aren’t given the option of selecting Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria or the rest of the World. We must actively be working in each of those areas if we want to be found faithful.

We are the Body of Christ.

As the body of Christ, we will work together to support His work. God will provide His church with all the resources necessary to accomplish His purpose. So, if we lack the resources to do what we believe God is leading us to do in the church, then one of two things is true: either we haven’t been faithful to give them, or what we are attempting isn’t His Will or His time. We demonstrate our faithfulness to Him by how we handle the resources He has entrusted to us.

We should not cower away from teaching biblical principles of tithing or look for loopholes in His instruction. Rather, we should boldly proclaim what He has taught in His Word. The budgets we make should reflect the priorities He has established for His church.

We are the Body of Christ.

As the body of Christ, we will love and support the spiritual leaders He has placed over us. Being a pastor is hard work. Even under ideal circumstances, the responsibilities are immense and the consequences are eternal. If we have called a man to be our pastor and entrusted to Him that responsibility, He deserves our support and respect.

I’ve heard that pastors aren’t respected as much as they used to be so often I’ve begun to wonder if they ever were? I’m not suggesting that pastors are perfect. Far from it. But, here’s a point that I’ve never seen conceded—churches who terminate their pastors for reasons other than moral or ethical failure or churches who have a habit of terminating pastors must admit we either missed God’s will when we called him or we reject His will now.

We are the Body of Christ.

As the body of Christ, we will value all the members of His body. John reminded us in 1 John that youth brings the excitement of conversion and the energy to do the work of the church, but seniority brings wisdom that is only gained from experience with Him who is from the beginning.

As a church, we must value both experience and innovation. Both are essential to health. This includes music, technology, and people. A body isn’t complete with functional members missing.

We are a body of Christ. May we serve to His glory.

 

Deron Biles serves as dean of extension education, associate dean for the Doctor of Ministry program and associate professor of pastoral theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Follow him on Twitter @deronjbiles.

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