A few posts ago, I floated out the idea that the primary way the church is gathered together is in Christ. Yes, some of us gather together physically from time to time, sometimes weekly, to encourage and edify one another, and while this physical gathering is one way of manifesting the church, or being the church, the physical gathering itself is not “church.” (I’m not fully sure I believe this myself, which is why I desire your feedback on the idea.)
If this is true, then the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 about spiritual gifts and the unity of the Body makes me feel a lot better. I have often heard it taught that one reason we need “larger” churches is so that every gift can be present and active. If you are only meeting with a group of ten people, there is a good chance that you are missing several spiritual gifts in the mix, some of which are quite vital for the healthy functioning of the body. I mean, how can a group of ten people function well as the church if they are missing the gift of teaching, or encouragement, or administration? To use Paul’s analogy, it would be like trying to live life without an eye, a hand, or a foot. It’s possible, but not easy.
However, IF the church is primarily a spiritual gathering of all believers into Jesus Christ, then we are spiritually unified together as the Body of Christ even when we are not physically gathered. And if so, then maybe different groups with different emphases might be good.
Is it possible (and wise?) for one group that gathers on a certain day in a certain place to focus more on teaching and knowledge gifts, and not as much on service and evangelism, while another group at another place and time focuses on service and evangelism, but not as much on teaching and knowledge, and that from God’s perspective, this is all okay?
I look at my own life (as well as that of most Christians I know), and it seems I have gone in cycles. For a few years, I want to do nothing but learn and study the Scriptures. Then I go through a few years where I wan to put into practice what I have learned, serve others, and meet needs. Then I start feeling a little burned out, so I return to a heavy emphasis on study and prayer. I don’t think this is Christian Schizophrenia; it may be the seasonal cycle of Christian development.
And that is why it is good to have various groups focus on different things. We don’t all need to look the same, act the same, do the same, believe the same, or get involved in the same tasks. And it is not that each individual group will have all the Body parts. Maybe one group is a great hand while another group is a great mouth. And when I need help being a hand, I join the hand group. When I need help being a mouth, I join the mouth group.
The mouth group, however, should not tell the hand group that they need to focus more on teaching and preaching, and the hand group should not tell the mouth group that they need to focus more on serving and caring. Since all believers are spiritually unified into one body around the entire globe and throughout time, we each serve in our particular role for our God-designed purpose.
From one perspective, the church may look fractured, with a hand going one way, a foot going another, while the mouth yells strange things. But when you back up and see the big picture, you witness the entire Body engaged in the most amazing and intricate dance. So amazing, the entire universe gasps in awe.
How is this possible? Because the Head, Jesus Christ, is choreographing and guiding the entire Body as He sees fit. The church is not broken. It is going exactly where and how He wants.