Many Members, One Body

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The Church of Jesus is a living organism with many parts contributing to the whole body. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.” This very truth makes church life a wonderful experience when we each find our place in God’s plan. The health and vitality of the whole body is dependent on the well being of each member. Likewise, the overall good health of the body will affect each member and empower them for greater service to the larger body.

Several important truths are found in the scriptures to help us understand this “many members, one body” concept. First, we are taught that it is one Lord who is in control of the body (1Cor 12:4). Christ as the head of the Church gives direction to His body. He gives gifts through the spirit to the members of His body to use for the blessing of the entire body.

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (1Cor 12:7). The Greek word translated “profit withal” is the word sumphero [Strongs #4851]. It carries the thought of being better for the bringing together of, to collect, or contribute. The gifts of the spirit then are to be “collected” and thus contribute to the body. In this way the group as a whole is much better off than we would be each by ourselves.

There are two attitudes that are not allowed in this body of Christ. First it is the inferiority concept that because I am not something or someone else I am not worth anything (1Cor 12: 15). Secondly, we are not allowed to entertain superiority ideas where we look around and feel we do not need our fellow brethren (1Cor 12:21).

Another Bible truth we should ponder is found in 1 Corinthians 12:22, “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.” The value of a member is not easily nor accurately calculated by normal circumstances. We will need to be especially careful to honor each member, even the seemingly feeble ones.

Verse 26 shows us how we should mutually share our joys and sorrows. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” This brings added strength in times of testing when we share our burdens and struggles. Our sorrows are divided and our joys are multiplied.

These Bible truths are well known and readily accepted among us. The harder challenge is how this plays out in practical church life. Knowledge of these truths may bless our hearts today but practice of them will bless the church for many generations.

To be a healthy and properly functioning church we need to make several practical applications to the above truths we just looked at. First, we need a wholesome openness where we can talk about issues we face and concerns we have. We even need an openness to look at issues we differ on and maybe issues that are painfully touching to us. We each must maintain a sincere desire to hear each other thoroughly and consider the views of others.
When we share in this way we should together look to the scriptures to guide us. Do we really believe the Word of God has the answer for us today in these last times? Do we spend enough time finding the verses that speak to the issues we face and finding ways to apply them? Or is our discussion mostly about what I think and how I feel? We must remember that this is the Lord’s church and we should seek His will for the church, not our own. We also should remember that our spirituality can be measured by our love for and obedience to the Word of God.

This openness must have its foundation in faith in the Lord of the Church. Finally, God is the one we will answer to some day for our lives. His Word is the authority. He has set the members in the body as it has pleased Him. He will continue to lead His people. Can we enter discussions in faith that God has an answer for us and seek His answer? Or will we succumb to fear and feel like I must get this thing back on track and help these people see this how God and I see it?

This kind of openness does not happen naturally. We are by nature opinionated, and self-centered. In fact, in a staunch effort to defend the faith, sometimes we may even resort to our self-centered, opinionated natural ways to try to further the Lord’s church. We do not need to be taught how to intimidate people, how to put people under such scrutiny for what they said that they choose to be quiet. It comes natural to be hurtful and throw barbs at our opponents until they succumb and be silent. But God cannot use these actions and attitudes in His kingdom. It tears down and destroys. It eventually sets up a dysfunctional atmosphere where a few people rule and the rest just follow to keep peace. Acold atmosphere of “Don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t trust, don’t make mistakes” sets in to take the place of warm, caring brotherhood togetherness.

We also must have a way to properly decide issues as a body. Voting is one way to decide questions. This requires a time of sharing so that all are informed and aware of the issue before the vote is called for. We should have an established percentage that it takes to pass. All should understand who can vote, and how the vote will be taken. When a brotherhood is functioning well, voting seems to be an easy way of deciding issues and moving forward efficiently.

But with the voting process comes a set of temptations that can ruin brotherhood togetherness. First of all, it can foster the “electioneering” spirit where we campaign for support for our idea. Voting also, by virtue of its very nature, divides a group into two, those in favor and those opposed. secondly, it can push us toward very lawyer-like responses to issues. We can become technical and calculating. We want a motion worded in a certain way so there is a loophole left open for our idea. sometimes when issues are discussed, the real issue is skirted and never brought to the floor to influence voters a certain way. Discussions are shaped in such a way to get the most support. some who vote never realize until afterward what all was in this decision and then maybe wish they had voted differently. In these circumstances, the “political” spirit rules and the brotherhood love and togetherness gets lost in the fray.

Another method is to seek a unanimous voice on issues before we move ahead. But this too can pose some difficulties when a brotherhood is struggling. Just one person can hold off a decision for years if they choose to do so. The decision then actually can rest in the voice of the minority instead of the majority. This method often takes more time to answer everyone’s questions and help all to understand the issue fully.

No one way of deciding issues will eliminate the stress that comes when our carnality steps forward and expresses itself. It is of utmost importance that we focus on this being the Lord’s church and we are stewards of His. We should spend more time considering how to love each other more and blend together better. We should focus more on what it means to submit one to another in the fear of God.

Once a decision is reached, we must learn to support and work along with it. It is wise if those who disagreed with a decision that passed would not bring it up for reconsideration, but rather let someone who voted for it call for a new look at this question if it’s to be looked at again. It is also of great importance that during our meetings we share all that is on our heart. We need the kind of openness and trust that enables each person to share all that is on his heart with honesty, love, and humility.

It might be difficult for us to accept a decision we disagree with, especially if we are a leader and must carry out this decision. We need a strong commitment to the body we are a part of to be able to do this. It is also much easier to submit to decisions if the proper openness was maintained through the discussions and a proper procedure of making the final decision was followed.

Another idea we must be careful about is the concept that some are not qualified to speak on issues. If a person never taught school, does that mean they don’t know much about school? Experience is helpful in many ways and often enables us to make wiser decisions. Persons involved on boards and committees should participate in the work to whatever degree possible for them. But sometimes people from “outside” looking on a work can offer objective advice and help that people “up close” are missing. So it is good to have some persons from various backgrounds involved in a work. Again we notice the value of many members blending into one body.

It is also important to keep a strong sense of togetherness if decisions don’t turn out too well. When a project is going well, all want to be included; but when a project begins to falter we tend to run and hide saying, “That wasn’t my idea.” Are we honoring this principle of “many members, one body” when we absent ourselves from the work by not participating?

We need to keep a strong love and appreciation for each one especially when disagreements arise on issues. It is easy to “write off” someone we disagree with or look critically at everything they do. It is tempting to zero in on individuals who have strong personalities and highlight all their mistakes. Eventually you can put a man at such a position that anything he does in a given situation is wrong. But this too violates the “many members, one body” concept. It is God’s work and WE are in this together. There is a right way to speak to people who are out of their place in the brotherhood and ask them to consider their ways.

There are some great benefits to be experienced by each member when the church is functioning properly. When we humble ourselves and each blend our talents into this body of Christ, we will experience great blessings and strength. We find a broad base of knowledge and experience when we all pull together. The counsel we receive from “the multitude of counselors” is very valuable. There is increased stability when a body of believers works together on issues that face the church. Also, we can find a greater understanding of Truth as we share together around the Word of God.
The church is designed by God to be one of the havens of rest and support we have in this turbulent world of sin and evil. May God help us to be experiencing that bliss and peace. May we each be a contributing factor to the health and well being of our church. And may we each be finding personal strength and empowerment for service as we participate in the Body of Christ!

~Fredericksburg, PA
August 2009