After Jesus rose from the dead, the tomb was empty and some people thought His body may have been stolen. That was totally incorrect, of course, but I can understand how some people might have come to that conclusion.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the Body of Christ described in the New Testament, and I’ve begun to think the unthinkable: I’m beginning to wonder if the Body of Christ really HAS been stolen in our day.
Here’s what I mean…
Paul’s letters give a very vivid description of the church as Christ’s Body. Instead of being a mere organization or club, he saw the church as a living, breathing organism. Just like a human body, the Body of Christ was composed of “many members” with “diversities of gifts.”
The Body of Christ wasn’t to center on just one or two gifted individuals, nor even on just a few types of spiritual gifts. No, the Body would only work properly as long as it realized everyone was gifted—for “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:7).
At times there were public “equipping” meetings in the early church, such as when Paul left the synagogue in Ephesus “and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus” (Acts 19:9). Yet Paul also describes a completely different kind of setting for the Body of Christ—one this is extremely difficult to find these days:
Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Have you seen anything even remotely like this in recent years? If not, I ask you again: Has the Body of Christ been stolen?
Of course, we still are the Body of Christ in some kind of theoretical or theological sense. But let’s be honest about the kind of church life promoted by most congregations today:
The BODY of Christ has been replaced by the AUDIENCE of Christ.
This has some tragic ramifications. No longer must every member of the Body function according to their gifts. A very few gifted individuals occupy the stage, and the remainder fill the seats of the audience. At best, these “ordinary church members” function as ushers and parking lot attendants. Even if we consider this part of the “gift of service,” where are the OTHER gifts of the Holy Spirit in our church life?
And what about you who are from Pentecostal or charismatic backgrounds? Can you really say your “Body life” is any better than the audience-oriented churches I’ve described? Perhaps you have a Sunday show that is more energetic than those from traditional or evangelical backgrounds. But in all likelihood, it’s a show nevertheless—much different than the kind of Body described by Paul.
There’s an old adage I try to live by, but it’s difficult in this case. According to the adage, we shouldn’t criticize anything unless we can offer a solution. And ideally, we should be modeling how to do things better.
I admit, I don’t have much of a solution in this case, and I can’t really say I’m doing things any better in my own life. But I’ve tasted of the Body of Christ in the past, and I miss it. I long for a community of believers who are building their lives together, discovering their gifts, and turning the world upside down for Jesus.
What about you? Are you satisfied with the kind of church life you’re experiencing?
Or perhaps, like me, you’re feeling like the women who wanted to see Jesus’ body on Resurrection Sunday: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luke 24:2-3). They must have felt really sad about this. They were looking for the Body of Christ, but couldn’t find it.
Churches love to claim they are doing something “new,” but usually they’re just modeling themselves after some other church they’ve visited or read about. Join me in praying for God to do something truly “new,” bringing us back to something very old : the many-membered, multidimensional, supernatural Body of Christ.
Very insightful and provocative post, Jim. It is amazing to me that “church leaders” are so busy planting churches that they have no time to make disciples. Having Jesus build His church through us is much different than building churches for Him. Reminds me of Peter on the mount of transfiguration…his response to the vision of Jesus in His glory was to build something for God and His servants (“I will build…”). The Father’s response was to interrupt Peter while he was speaking about what he would do for God, and tell him to listen to Jesus! Jesus said, “I will build My church…” God help us to listen to Jesus and simply obey the leading of His spirit one day at a time as He builds His church through each one of His people for His glory alone. Thanks again for posting this and sounding the call. With you in spirit. ~Sean
Great message, Sean. I need to write a blog on the Transfiguration sometime! Yes, indeed, we’re all prone to want to “build something for Jesus.” Peter no doubt was well-meaning, but in retrospect his comments seem downright silly. Some of our good intentions are probably that way too. I could love to catch up with you. Can you give me a call sometime? 803-578-1343