The Church is the Body of Christ; the individual members belong to that Body only by virtue of their connection to Christ. He alone is the founder of our faith; he alone is the completer (Heb 12). The Body, therefore, is not a mere collection, as if a part might be removed without consequence. Each person, each connection, each function, each purpose makes the Body what it ought to be. Similarly, persons, connections, functions, and purposes not inherent to the Body contaminate the system and make it what it ought not to be.
As the Body, the church functions at the communal and individual levels. In addition to saving grace (Eph 2:8-10), Christ measures out functional grace (Eph 4:7), equipping each member to serve the local and global church. Persons practice grace so that the church might mature and expand. The Body practices grace that is greater than the sum of its parts; a properly functioning church will have influence beyond what is logical from member’s participation.
How does this maturation take place in the world? An important step is to take a clear, focused look at Jesus and confess that we, as his Body, are not behaving in accordance with our identity in him. Only then, after knowing where we are and where we ought to be, can we plan and begin our journey. If the church is broken, the problem is not external; the problem is in the church itself.
A major internal contributor is the unbalanced, haphazard way many persons receive biblical input. Too may subsist on pre-chewed pablum. Too many read only emotionally. Too many read only intellectually. If growth results from knowing and speaking truth in the context of love, then adequate biblical input is necessary for life and growth.
This biblical input must go beyond mere hearing, mere emotions, or mere intellect. Each person, each community must take responsibility. The following matrix (developed after skimming Life with God by Richard Foster) offers some suggestions.
I realize some may cast doubt on my emphasizing biblical input, placing great importance on spiritual experiences. Such experiences can be important; they can also be false. Others will emphasize listening to the Spirit. This is, of course, crucial and necessary. But to both I must ask, How do you know the experiences or the voices are from God? One cannot merely say, I just know, for we all have personal and cultural filters that skew our perceptions. The only sure way to know God’s voice is to listen to him in community as we gather to read the Word with head and heart, going deeply into smaller portions and gaining breadth in larger chunks.
Relevant Readings and Writings this Past Week
blog post: Pursued by and Dwelling in God
book: Biology of Human Starvation
blog post: Blitz the Me-Prayer
Scripture: Daniel 9, Psalm 23, Psalm 119:105-112
book introduction: Thinking in Systems
blog post: By Guidance and Intention
ideas in blog posts: monkey bars