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Sunday, 7 September 2008

What is the Church?

The question “What is a Christian?” leads (I would say, quite logically) to the question “What is the Church?” It is not, of course, the building – whether it be a grand cathedral with beautiful stained-glass windows and soaring spires, set in a hill overlooking the city or town in which it is set, or a small hall in the middle of a council housing-estate, and surrounded by towering blocks of 1950s flats/apartments. Such a structure is no more than the meeting-place of the local church.

The Church, in New Testament terms, is people – people who have made a conscious and deliberate decision to commit their lives to following, and serving, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the saints who do not require any form of canonisation by any particular denomination, but who are made holy by the cleansing blood of the Lamb, shed at Calvary.
Just as we may find a number of descriptions of the Christian within the pages of God’s written Word, so there are a number of descriptions of the Church. One of these is a Body. Indeed, we are told, quite clearly, that the Church is the very Body of the Lord, Jesus Christ. (Rom.12:5; I Cor.12:27)

Of course, apart (possibly!!) from an amoeba, or some other such creature, a body is made up of a number of parts. My human body has a head; a torso; legs; arms; feet; hands; internal organs; etc., etc. And the Church is no different! “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body . We are many parts of one body, …” (Rom 12:4-5; see also I Cor.12:12ff).

The Church is a body that, similarly to the human body has many parts, each with its own function. The nose is a very useful organ if I want to check whether, or not, food is fresh; or if there is an unlit gas tap turned on; or even if the person beside me on the bus has been perspiring! However, it isn’t of much use if I want to consume a bowl of soup – my hands are much better at holding a spoon! And there are many parts. Can you imagine a six-foot tall nose making its way down your street? The nose isn’t going to get anywhere without the rest of the body. And while it might make the next majot news-bulletin, such an unattached appendage isn't going to be capable of very much!

So it is with the Church. Each of us is given different giftings and talents; but each of us also depends on the others in order to fulfil the task(s) to which God has called us. Unity in diversity; diversity in unity. Not everyone is called to be a preacher; an evangelist; a teacher; even a Christian blogger! But I think of one dear lady in Liberty CommUNITY Church. She’s unlikely to ever lead from the front; or bring the message at the Family Service (although we must never seek to limit what God can do in, and with, any one of us!). But she has an amazing memory for dates, and does a superb job in sending cards to church members, on behalf of the Fellowship, on their birthday anniversaries; and she’s always involved in serving the refreshments in the interval between the two morning services. Not the highest-profile ministry – but we would miss her greatly if she wasn’t there, faithfully serving the rest of the Body,
as the Lord has enabled her.

So, if you’re a disciple of Jesus, please ensure that you are an active part of the Body – and that means being part of a local expression of that Body, where your specific contribution can enhance the whole, and where the whole can make your specific contribution more effective.
May you know the Presence, and the power, of the Master, in all that you do.

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