(Friendly Warning: Sermon Excerpt!)
Let’s rescue the idea of the Church as the body of Christ from the bean counters. I have a collection of books and workbooks that help people discover their place in the life of the church. The point of the Church as the body of Christ is not how we can have the organization of the church run smoothly. That is only a part of it. The point is that we are to the world what Jesus was to the world in his incarnation.
On his last evening with the Disciples, Jesus said something that we need to think about.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father.” John 14:12
When Peter was explaining the Christian message to Cornelius, he gave this summary of Jesus Ministry:
“…you know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him…” Acts 10:37-38
When we follow the life of Jesus we find an interesting pattern:
He spent time with the Father. The disciples noticed that Jesus would often pray – it was in asking how to pray that he taught them the Lord’s Prayer as an example of prayer. Jesus made a practice of getting up early, getting away from distractions and spending time with the Father. From this he got his sense of purpose and direction.
He spent time with his disciples. The twelve followed him everywhere. When Judas was replaced one qualification for an Apostle was the they had been with Jesus. They ate meals together. They did ministry together. He sent them out to teach and heal, and together they reported on what they learned.
He went out into the world. As Peter explained it, Jesus under the power of the Holy Spirit that he received at his Baptism, went out into the world doing good. He welcomed the outcasts. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He taught the people in a way that drew them.
What about us?
We spend time with the Father. All of us have the opportunity to be with the Father – Jesus taught that we should go to a solitary place when we pray – so we are not tempted to show off for other people. This spending time can take various forms.
We spend time with the disciples. All of us have the opportunity to get together with other believers. Here we are in church, as we say so often, mistaking the building for the church. It is better to say, here we are, the church gathered. And we spend time under the teaching of the Word of God. We spend time in prayer and worship together. We spend time eating together. This is described as how the very first church spent it’s time together
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
We are sent into the world. The New Testament word for Church is “ekklesia”, it literally means “called together.” This means that we are called by God to be together for set times. But then we are sent back. God does not intend that the Church only be those times when we are assembled in one place. We are also the church when we are disassembled. When you go to your houses, your places of work, to where you play or volunteer or eat…in all those places you are in the world with a mission.
The mission of God in the world is not accomplished by having individuals receive the gifts of Salvation. That is the beginning of the work but not the end. The mission of God in the world is not accomplished by enlarging the numbers and the effectiveness of congregations. That is the middle part of the word but not the end. The mission of God in the world is accomplished when we go out as the Body of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit to do the work of Jesus in the world.