While I was in the Navy, one of the duty stations I was assigned to was a nuclear powered guided missile cruiser out of Alameda, California. One of the many duties I was assigned was "I" division officer, responsible for coordinating the indoctrination of personnel who recently reported for duty aboard the ship. The commanding officer, Captain Chase, insisted that he be the first to address these newly reporting personnel. He would come in and we would all stand to attention, an honor due to the head of the crew. After putting us at ease, he would address the assembled crew members saying: Welcome aboard. I would like to congratulate you on becoming millionaires. This is a multi-billion dollar ship and the Navy has given you a multi-million dollar share in responsibility for it. This is a magnificent ship with awesome weaponry, sophisticated combat systems, and the most modern technology including two nuclear reactors for driving the ship. But, it is still just a ship!
It, and all the other things that come with being in the U.S. Navy, exists for one reason - to enable you to accomplish your mission, which is to defend your family, friends and neighbors against any enemy. You are USS ARKANSAS. The ship is CGN-41.
Captain Chase told his crew that the institution exists to enable its members to accomplish their mission. Anyone who got confused about that and thought that the members existed to enable the institution to accomplish its mission would soon encounter problems. Anyone who got confused about who was the head of the crew often found themselves in trouble as well.
One of the problems created when we get confused concerning the roles of the institution and its members is that the mission often becomes distorted.
When I was a Scoutmaster, we had a Council Executive who got confused. He thought that the boy scouts existed to enable the council to accomplish its mission, which he thought was to make money. As a result he cut back on services to the scouts. If you’ve ever been to summer camp, you know that food is a very important component of the camping experience. This council executive cut back on expenditures for the procurement, preparation and serving of food amongst other things at the council’s summer camps. This resulted in a dissatisfying experience for the boys who attended the camps. The following summer the council’s summer camps were poorly attended because the boy scouts chose to attend other councils’ camps. The council started having financial difficulties and even considered selling one of the 3 council camps to keep from going into the red financially.
That council executive moved on to another position in scouting and was replaced by another executive who wasn’t confused about the council’s mission, which is to enable boys to become good men. He did what was necessary to ensure that boys who attended the council’s summer camp sessions had an enjoyable experience. The result has been that the council has had to add summer camping sessions to accommodate all the scouts who want to attend the council’s summer camps and the council is no longer experiencing financial difficulties.
It is said that we live in a post-Christian era; that the church is no longer seen as relevant by a significant proportion of our society.
Much has been written and much said about the problems the Church is experiencing in our day and proposed cures. I like to go to The Book when it comes to seeking answers to problems of the church. I Corinthians 11:29, 30 says we encounter problems when we don’t correctly discern the Body of Christ. When the members of the body get confused about the Body, there will be problems.
What would happen if your hands thought they didn’t need your eyes to cut a board on a table saw? The hands would find themselves on the floor, detached from the body, unable to function and dying.
What would happen if your bowels quit fulfilling their unglamorous function? The body would become diseased and die.
What would happen if the members of your body decided they could function well enough without having to listen to the head? The body would be disabled, unable to function as intended.
What would happen if your foot tried to be the head? Feet don’t make very good heads. Nor do legs make very good arms nor eyes make very good ears.
The Bible says the church is the Body of Christ. Many in the church have become confused about what that means. Their perception is that the church is an institution and that the members exist to enable the institution to fulfill its mission. That mission often becomes simply sustaining and maintaining the institution.
When the bible talks about the church being the Body of Christ, the word used is soma, which means the flesh and blood body, as a sound whole. When Christ was on earth, God was manifest to us in flesh and blood. When He ascended, Christ said he would send his Spirit to inhabit His Body, the Church. God has chosen to manifest Himself to our world through the Body of Christ, the Church. As members of Christ’s Body, each of us has a vital purpose. When we fail to fulfill that purpose properly, "many are weak and sickly and many sleep." When the members are no longer directed by the head of the body, Christ, the body becomes dysfunctional. When we confuse the Body of Christ with an institution we become confused about our God-given purpose. When we become confused and think that the members of the body exist to enable an institution to function we experience problems.