Summary: How does God see the church of our city- and our congregation and its relationship with other congregations?
God’s picture of the church in a city. 1 Cor 12:12-27
You know- some of the pictures we have of what it’s about… what church is… are just plain wrong
THE CHURCH- OUR PICTURE: OUR GROUP
And I want to speak to you about something the Lord has laid on my heart, tonight. And it’s really an expansion on something I preached on In Oct 2005 one morning, here
You see- we interpret everything we hear through our culture, our perspective… our tinted glasses- never realising we’re distorting it or interpreting it wrongly
- until God steps in and removes the glasses!
- See how wrong we have been!
We’ve all heard lots of sermons about the church- and lots about the body of Christ… and from this passage
- and as we hear them we think
o "ah: the church. That’s US, here. The body of Christ: that’s us, here in this building"
" "and look at our diversity: there’s David- he’s the hands. Ed: he’s the brain. Adrian: he’s the vocal cords. Janet: she’s the smile. Liz; she’s the pen. Angela: she’s the knees (prayer)"
" "the body represented in all it’s diversity. Just like in Corinth"
Of course- you’re probably right about the individuals. But how wrong we can be about the body.. the church
THE CHURCH: GOD’S PICTURE: A BODY
Think about this letter in it’s original context. Who was it written to?
- ’the church of God in Corinth’. ’the church of Corinth’
- - in the same way as Paul wrote
o "to all in Rome who are loved by God…"
o "to the saints in Ephesus"
o "to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi"
He wrote them to one church in a city. One body.
- Jesus only has one body, one church…. In a city
o (sure Paul writes to the churcheES of Galatia- but that’s because it was a REGION- and nobody could be expected to associate only with the Christians 50 miles away)
In fact- it would have been ridiculous to have thought of … or written letters to.. this or that church in a city. "Those who belong to this church. Those who follow Apollos. Those who do it THAT way"
- it’s true, isn’t it?!
- there was only one church. Jesus had only one body in a city
o it was big. Rich. Diverse. Militant. Active. Alive. Growing
o they might have met in people’s homes
" some homes were big enough to house the whole lot
" some homes were very prominent- for example Priscilla & Aquilla’s! Lots goes on in their homes
" 3 are mentioned; Rome, Ephesus and Corinth
" but these were, I believe, either THE church of Corinth… or a cell that considered itself part of it
" (so there is good precedent for our small groups)
But Paul wrote to… Jesus had… and people knew they were part of ONE church, ONE body
- now everyone…all 36 churches… think ’we’re the church… we’re the body of Jesus’
- we hear this picture and apply it only to ourselves
o but I long for the day when we will say "I’m part of the church of Winchester, and I meet at the congregation on City Rd"…
o (and more. Let me dream: "I’m part of the church of Winchester, and I meet at the congregation on City Rd- but come to our City-wide Celebration this week"
o I realise that’s a long way off… )
Here’s the effect of applying this picture of ’the body’ only to ourselves
1) We are deprived of diversity
Basically- we think ’oh, within us there are ears and hands and feet etc’
- but the truth is we are really not very diverse
- congregations attract for comfort, not challenge- and so, actually, we attract/gather PLUs. People like Us. You and ME.
- And so, in reality, parts of the body, PLUs, gather in high density. Here we have a gathering of ears- the prophetic. There the brains- the intellectual. Here the hands- the practical do-ers
o You hear it said: "we’ve got a heart for prayer"
And so we are less diverse than we should be. And you need diversity, balance and breadth to ’stay in the race’ (till the end!)
- and we’re deprived because of it!
- and so is our effectiveness
- Illustr: do you know many of our Anglo-Catholic churches have holy relics in them (in the feretory). Eg the arm of a saint. Detached. Crinkled. Useless.
o And we’re like that. An identity in ourselves- but useless as detached from the rest of the body
We need their diversity, and they need ours!
- "ah, but they might have a different picture of salvation to us!"