27 Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body. 28 First, God chose some people to be apostles and prophets and teachers for the church. But he also chose some to work miracles or heal the sick or help others or be leaders or speak different kinds of languages. 29 Not everyone is an apostle. Not everyone is a prophet. Not everyone is a teacher. Not everyone can work miracles. 30 Not everyone can heal the sick. Not everyone can speak different kinds of languages. Not everyone can tell what these languages mean. 31 I want you to desire the best gifts. So I will show you a much better way.
1 Corinthians 12:27-31
Together is better.
A puzzle has many pieces but but if one piece is missing, the picture is incomplete. Sure, others could even possibly understand what the picture is meant to be but without that final piece, the picture is imperfect; it’s not together. Isn’t this how so many churches in America are? Pieces are missing everywhere. People are not plugged in and the world is getting an incomplete picture of the Kingdom of God. We are communities (I use this word loosely) of individuals who gather in the same vicinity with different motivations and intentions. For many attending church is about attendance not participation. We are people who share space but not heart or passion.
This is far from God’s intention and desire for His Church! The Church exists to make the Presence of Christ more evident in the world. Christ pruposefully left His disciples in the world to represent Him to the world!
15 Father, I don’t ask you to take my followers out of the world, but keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They don’t belong to this world, and neither do I. 17 Your word is the truth. So let this truth make them completely yours. 18 I am sending them into the world, just as you sent me. 19 I have given myself completely for their sake, so that they may belong completely to the truth.
20 I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. 21 I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me. John 17:15-21
The Church is the only picture, however incomplete, that the world has of Christ. The way of the Church is the way people perceive Christ. We therefore have a huge responsibility when we gather in His name. We have a great opportunity as His Church to impact the world. But we have to come together!
Individuals in Church?
It is no secret that Americans are very independent and individualistic people. This causes some great struggles in the Church. We complain about anything and everything that doesn’t sit right with us or meet our individual needs i.e. if we don’t have kids in youth, then the youth program is unnecessary. We have no issue making our opinions known and fighting for things we are against. We need to be people who for FOR something! There are loud voices from many individuals within the Church that define the persona and image of the Church and it’s often only these voices that are heard by the world. Is Church about us? Is it about our wants, needs, desires, beliefs, doctrine, and defense of the scripture? Or is it about something else? Someone else? In many ways we have made Church about the worship of us. Church is only about one individual and that’s Jesus! What is important to Jesus? Jesus’ heart was for God and people. Nothing more. Nothing less.
For many churches, gathering is about feel good music and a feel good message, instead of what breaks the heart of God.
God’s heart breaks for the world. God’s heart breaks for the devastating effects of sin. God’s heart breaks for people who are separated from Him. Church needs to be a place where individuals come to collectively experience the love of God expressed from His people. God intends for it to be a place where people are healed, not wounded, helped, not hurt. When we come together to bear one another’s burdens others will take notice and know we belong to God. Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples not by what we abstain from, preach about, or fight for but for our love expressed toward each other.
Meant To Be Together
We are meant to be together. I didn’t say we had to have it together but that we were meant to be together; and there’s a huge difference! Church is a place for failures. For sinners. For saints. For all of us! None of us have it all together regardless of the facade that is put forth. We all need each other. I need you and you need me. Where I am weak, you or another can be strong. When I fall down, you can help me up. If I am messing up and struggling, you can help me and keep me on the right path. This is what Church is all about!
Statistics reveal that there are at least 217 denominations in America. With so many different ways to worship, congregations have a difficult time coming together as One Body. May I submit that as followers of Christ, we must seek to gather in fellowship and service with our brothers and sisters as often as we can.
Isolating ourselves, remaining individual churches communicates that we don’t like each other, can’t work together, or have differing or competing agendas.
Paul spoke of Jews and Greeks worshipping together. How is it that we cannot? We have to begin seeking God together. The Father, Son and Spirit work together and they are in harmony and unity. If we are to be the real Body of Christ we must seek the same community and unity. God’s Kingdom will grow as we operate as the Body of Christ Together.
I hope the picture is getting clearer: people are puzzled by how we operate as the Body and Church. Would you agree? What can we do better? How can we move from individual churches and serve with each other better?
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as the student minister at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA