The Local Church Functions as a Body Eph. 1:22-23 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
When we studied Local Church in Bible College there was an emphasis on the differences between the Local Church and the Body of Christ. Most notably, I remember learning that the Church is an organism and the Local Church is an organization. I have since come to believe that the Local Church is more than a mere organization. After years of pastoring and reading the scriptures I believe that the Local Church should typify the body of Christ and function as a body.
We know that Jesus Christ is the head of the church which is his body [Eph 1:22-23]. Christ is the head and the members are the body [1 Cor 12:12-13; Eph 5:30-32]. When Jesus was on earth he called his body a temple [Jn 2:19-21]. Thus, when members are added to his body through salvation “the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord,” [Eph 2:19-22]. This is the Church, the literal body and temple of the Lord.
Then there are local churches as in 2 Thes 1:1, the church of the Thessalonians, and 2 Thes 1:4, the churches of God. The local church is not the building in which the church meets or the organization by which the church conducts its business [though local churches generally have buildings and are generally organized].
The local church is a local body of believers that function together [Acts 14:27; 1 Cor 14:23]. Notice that elders oversee a flock and feed the church of God [Acts 20:28]. The pastor of a church takes care of the church of God [1 Tim 3:5]. Functionally, a pastor accomplishes Eph 4:12 through his local church more so than in the Church, the body of Christ. [Note: We have not adopted the Baptist Brider doctrine at all.]
Thus, the members of the local church should function just like the members of the body of Christ [1 Cor 12:14-27]. They make up the hands, feet, ears, eyes, nose, mouth and so forth that the Lord uses to accomplish his work in the local church. Christ is the head of the local church and he sets the members in the church as it pleases him [1 Cor 12:18]. We have seen that as needs arise in our church God raises up the people to meet those needs. We have to do a lot of training and apprenticeship [2 Tim 2:2] but we don’t have to do any recruiting.
Understanding that the Local Church functions as a body augments pastors and members’:
Love for the church – Eph 4:14-16, 5:25-29 – Christ loves the church and he loves the local church – you need to love it, too – the members are your body and they should be nourished and cherished as you nourish and cherish your natural body – the attitude of many pastors is that sheep just need feeding, watering and plenty of sheering [reproof and rebuke] – they need far more than that; they need loving, principally – and for pastors, this love stems from your love of the Lord – Peter do you love me? Feed my sheep.
Holiness in the church – Eph 2:21; 1 Cor 3:16-17 – as being filled with the Spirit benefits the church so being unholy adversely affects the church – unholiness among the members is like blood clots and nerve damage in your natural body – your secret sin affects the whole body by diminishing the liberty of the Spirit in the congregation – consider how revival purifies the hearts of the individual members and then increases the work of the Spirit in the church.
Responsibility to the church – Heb 13:17; Eph 4:16; 1 Cor 12 – every joint supplieth… the effectual working in the measure of every part… the edifying of itself in love – each member has a responsibility to the others to do his part in the body – a young man who is called to preach in your church has been supplied by the nursery workers [church is a good place to be, it is safe and the people here love me], his Sunday school teachers, his youth pastor, his pastor, the members who have prayed for him and encouraged him and, above all, the Lord who has worked through the members to edify him to fulfill his call.
Discipline by the church – 1 Cor 5:1-8; Acts 20:30 – errant members are treated as leaven and are removed from the church for the health of the body – the church also recognizes that some members are like injured limbs of your body – they don’t need to be removed, they need to be rehabilitated.
Growth of the church – Eph 2:20-22; Eph 4:16 – soul winning then will not be about merely leading souls to Christ but about getting them connected to the local church so they can grow and function within the body – relationships should be nurtured with these souls – and take time with them before letting them join the church to make sure of their salvation and to help them understand that membership in a local church involves serving the body.
Glory to God through the church – Eph 3:21 – Jesus desires to bring glory to God through the church just like he desired his Father’s glory while he was in his earthly ministry – the “success” of all we do is then gauged not by how well we perform in the eyes of others but by how much God is glorified in our churches.
Conclusion: Your attitude toward your local church will change for the better when you realize that your local church is not inferior to the body of Christ – as much as Christ loves the church is the degree to which he loves your local church – thus, great care should be exercised in each of these areas that we discussed today – lead by example and encourage your folks to follow you and the scripture in these matters.