I wrote this post originally for Jesus Loves Kzoo, a city-wide Gospel movement in Kalamazoo I am blessed to be part of.
I have been recently challenged by some great leaders I love and respect with this question, “is it necessary for us (churches) to work (play) together to be unified?” Sometimes this doesn’t come in the form of a question but in the form of a statement. One of the calls on my life is to work toward the transformation of our city through the unifying gospel movement of churches working together. So when I get push back like that, I sometimes get a little anxious.
More importantly, however, it causes me to become really clear about what I believe.
In 1 Corinthians 12:14-27, Paul gives a beautiful picture of the Church – yes, capital “C” CHURCH – as the body of Christ. He tells us the body is made up of many parts, and that each part needs each other. He says that one part of the body can’t look at another part and say, “well, because I am a foot and not a hand, I am not part of the body.” And, “hey hands, we’re eyeballs and we don’t need you!” Each part is unique and plays a part in the body being whole and healthy.
I’ve never been able to leave a body part behind!
Not that I’ve really tried, mind you. But it seems everywhere I go, my whole body goes with me. And, I discovered I really need my whole body to be working together. In fact, I’ve discovered that when I am walking it is not a good thing if my eyes are heading in a different direction than the rest of me.
I think it is easy for us to say we are unified when we are not, when we don’t work together. I think it becomes too easy for us to politely acknowledge one another in passing, but really think the whole sandbox is ours.
Paul is not talking to individual congregations of varying sizes. He is talking to THE Church. And in Paul’s understanding the Church was the Church of the City. The Church in Corinth was large enough that it met in smaller, house churches scattered throughout the city. But he addressed it as a single unit.
There are many congregations in our community of Kalamazoo, but there is one Church. And while we can work alone in isolation and get some good stuff done. It is when we function together that we are most effective and most honoring to God.
Sometimes parts of the Body get hurt!
Last year during JLK Catalyst Week some of you may remember I had my left arm in a great big cast so my wrist ligaments would heal. This year I will be rehabbing a shoulder injury back to health. Maybe it’s because I am getting older. Maybe it is because I play hard and in playing hard a part of the body gets hurt.
I believe we sometimes avoid working and playing together as a whole body of Christ because when we’ve done that in the past we’ve gotten hurt. When my body gets hurt, I tend to pull back. Not go after it as hard.
But I also need the whole body to work together for healing. I am not looking forward to physical therapy for my shoulder. I know they will ask me to do things that hurt. I don’t like pain. But I also know it will bring healing and strength.
We run the risk of getting hurt when we play and work together as the whole body of Christ. But, it is only when we are fully functioning as Christ’s body in our community will we, the Church, not only see the healing God has for us, but be able to be part of the healing and restoration God has in mind for our community.