You Are the Body of Christ

LIVESTREAM IS MAINSTREAM. A COVID-19 Reflection. Aquí está el artículo en español.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Cor. 12:27

The local church has been physically impacted by the COVID-19 virus and its subsequent social distancing mandates. Most have been forced to “livestream” their services to prevent the spread of the virus. Members can now ‘participate’ in their service as long as they have a viable internet connection.

In some measure the church has already been operating in a “livestream” mode before the virus forced the people out of the pews. In much of Christendom “church” has become synonymous with the Sunday “service.” In many cases the “service” consists of a “team” of individuals who pray, sing, teach, preach and generally monopolize the 1-2 hour segment while the vast majority of Christians in attendance “receive” the instruction, encouragement, and admonition of the team with an opportunity to give through their tithes and offerings. A tiny fraction of the Christians are operating as “indispensable” members of a living organism, while the majority have become passive spectators to a highly choreographed spectacle.

Perhaps the most common metaphor used by the Apostle Paul for the New Testament Church is the “Body of Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12, 27, Eph. 4:12, 5:23, 30, Col. 1:24) In First Corinthians, Paul uses this metaphor in part to show how the church is radically interdependent on the spiritual functioning of ALL of its members. In fact, using the body metaphor Scripture teaches that even the weaker members are indispensable. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘“I have no need of you,”’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘“I have no need of you.”’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Cor. 12:21-22) Only when each member is functioning in their God ordained capacity can Christ be fully represented. In fact the body would be severely handicapped if ALL members were not functioning as designed by God. Later, in his letter to the church in Corinth Paul states that when the church gathers together, “each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Cor. 14:26) The New Testament vision of a church where all members are literally indispensable and serve a vital role in the church’s life and vitality stands in stark contrast to what is on display today.

Much of the church today is not engineered to accommodate a biblical Pauline model. The Corinthian model celebrates and utilizes God’s presence and nature in every believer who has received the Spirit of God (1 Cor.12:13. Eph. 1:13) and understands that each body part is crucial to the whole. The current professional-staff model is much more “efficient” and works well without a spiritually mature body. The current situation also plays well into a passive congregation who defers their responsibility and priesthood privilege to the few who can play the role of Christian for the rest. It is also a temptation to leaders who fear losing control of a non-choreographed setting.

The biblical interdependent nature of the “body of Christ” means that each “body part” must be functioning in order for the body to fulfill its purpose. Bodies without legs, arms, or eyes become spiritually handicapped and dysfunctional. In many cases churches are not designed for this type of spiritual ecosystem. Instead of an orchestra with violins, flutes, harps, bassoons, French horns, oboes and trumpets, the audience has been content to listen to the bass drum week after week. In place of the interdependent body, we have become divided into performers and audience.

Every believer has an “indispensable” place in the local church. Whether it is through evangelism, healing, prophecy, administration, teaching, preaching, etc., each body part is vital to the church’s health. The church needs a more complete manifestation of Christ, which can only be achieved when each member is placed in the position of God’s design.

The professional staff-audience model does not reflect the Biblical witness and is an injustice to the Spirit’s presence and power in the life of each believer. It doesn’t acknowledge a New Testament ecclesiology founded on the deposit of the Holy Spirit of God in each believer.

The “body of Christ” church model put forth in Scripture will require a radical reorientation of the current professional entertainment model prevalent throughout the church today. It will require the spectators to embrace their vital and “indispensable” role in the body. It will require leaders to encourage the “audience” to transition into their God ordained role within the church’s spiritual ecosystem.

This desire to see the church function as a “body” and not as a few “body parts” is not an argument for a particular church polity (structure), nor an argument against robust spiritual leadership. It is a call to acknowledge that each believer in a local church has the Holy Spirit of God and therefore a vital role to play if Christ is to be manifest. Embracing this biblical model will require a radical reorientation of the current “professional”- “audience” “business” model. The “body of Christ” model requires each member to embrace and exercise their body function. It requires a leadership that sees themselves as a part of the body and not the body-a leadership that encourages members to step forward in the places that God has apportioned, realizing that focus will shift away from the “professionals” and upwards toward Christ and His body!

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Article by Sky Cline