Recently, my family and I visited Sydney. While we were there, I had one of those moments where I thought, “Wow, this is who the church is.” Over the years, my perception of the church has changed – sculpted by experiences, seasons, people and ultimately, by the word and the Spirit of God. There is such a battle within the church that people often lose sight of who the church is really meant to be. Its true image is blurred by accusation, self-righteousness, lack of truth, lack of fellowship, lack of unity and so many other things. Yet, for all the faults of the church and the faults of the people who are in it, the church remains God’s beloved bride. There are Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, AOG and many other denominations, but there is still only one church. This is the church, beloved by God, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and filled with the living Spirit.
In the Bible, God gives us a few descriptions and images of His church:
The church is His BRIDE
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” [Revelation 19:7]
The church is His LAMP
“The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” [Revelation 1:20]
The church is His BUILDING
“Now, therefore, you are… fellow citizens with the saints and members in the household of God… Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” [Ephesians 2:19-22]
The church is HIS BODY
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.”
[1 Corinthians 12:27]
MOVING THE BODY
When we visited Sydney, the image of the church as the body of Christ stood out to me the most. We visited Hillsong Church and this really showed me how my thinking about the church had changed. I had never been particularly interested in visiting Hillsong, mainly because of all the hype people gave it. However, I have now visited small churches and mega-churches, and seen a variety of ways in which people run their services. One thing that struck me in visiting Hillsong was how willingly and humbly the majority of the congregation served. There were joyful givers doing all sorts of “backstage” tasks – showing new people around, serving hot dogs, holding free Bibles for new believers, standing at stalls to give people information about different courses and opportunities, probably lots of administrative staff I never saw. More visibly, musicians, video and media operators ran a smooth service – they were prepared and they gave their all for God’s glory, calling people to see His face.
You can be in a small church with limited resources and training, yet have a powerful impact for God. You can be in that same situation and serve with pride and indifference. You can be in a huge church and give God your all, or be in a huge church and give God nothing.
I have realised a couple of things that have seasoned my perspective of church with more grace.
- Every church has people who really want to know God, and who worship Him with all their heart.
- Every church may have people who do not truly love and follow God.
- Every church will have people walking with Christ at different stages of their faith journey.
- God loves the church and He can use even the smallest mustard seed of faith for amazing things.
In discerning what is and is not of God, I have come to embrace foundation – this cannot be compromised.
- God is three in one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, came to die for our sins and salvation is found in Him alone, through faith, and through grace.
- The Bible is God’s true and living word.
The church of Christ knows God is the only way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through Christ [John 14:6]. The main difference between many cults and religions compared to the Church of Christ is this: The Church believes Jesus is Messiah and Salvation. Everyone else, whatever their impression of Jesus and what He did might be, believes that Jesus did not pay it all. That is why they advocate for so many extra books, prophecies, writings, people and tasks to do. None of these things will bridge the gap to a close relationship with God. Jesus is the only way and His way is paved with grace.
Here are some principles for taking our part in the body of Christ:
- Serve joyfully
“…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [2 Thessalonians 5:18]
- Serve faithfully
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” [Galatians 6:9]
- Serve as if working for the Lord
“Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters… in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” [Ephesians 6:5-6]
- Serve with love and honour for one another
“…But God composed the body, having given greater honour to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” [1 Corinthians 12:24-25]
So then, what is the image of the church as the BODY OF CHRIST? 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 describes it well, and I see it like this:
Our God, Jesus Christ,
Directs His church
Those One with Him.
To do His will
And work with Him,
2The eyes to see,
The ears to hear,
The mouth to speak,
And arms to bear,
Embrace and hold,
Fingers to grasp things,
3The torso turns
Gives insight to eyes,
Allows hands to
What was previously far.
The legs bear the weight
The feet dare to run,
And each to themselves
4Toes to balance,
Nails to protect,
The insides to clean
The Spirit in heart,
The author never
5So many, in body
Yet one in the Spirit.
Too many to count,
In purposeful mission.
Yet each one
Will of the Father,
To go with His vision.
5He moves the body,
He gives it life.
The eye helps the foot,
The heart helps the tongue.
Not one by themselves,
The body, the church,