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!"
o yes- but do you know that- or is that just what you’ve heard?
o and- might they have changed?
- And might they NEED to hear our story? (’m sure that’s true)
- And might we need to hear theirs? (I’m sure that’s true!)
- Illustr: RC’s. wherever you cut them they bleed social justice. Are like a stick of rock
o And that’s there in the gospel, too , you know. "Lord, when were you a prisoner and we didn’t come and visit?" "Depart from me I never knew you!"
2) Jesus isn’t shown in His full glory
That’s the second effect of this.
We are the body of Christ, now, on earth. We are His hands, feet. He acts through us. We are how He shows Himself to the world (that’s what Paul is really saying when he calls us the body of Christ)
And all we can do on our own is present an arm or a belly. Paint a lopsided picture of Him. Relate to PLUs
- and then we’re surprised when they… the mystics and the artists … or the intellectuals of a certain kind… don’t want to buy into our Jesus!
Perhaps the image they reject is the image we’d reject if we saw it for the first time- as it’s so distorted
- (we have the benefit of relationship and history, now. We’re in it)
Wayne Watson- "Would I know You now"
Would I know You now if You walked into the room
If you stilled the crowd--If You light dispelled the gloom
And if I saw Your wounds--Touched Your thorn pierced brow
I wonder if I’d know You now
Would I know You now if You walked into this place
Would I cause You shame--Would my games be Your disgrace
Or would I worship You--Fall down upon my face
I wonder if I’d know You now
Or have the images I’ve painted
So distorted who You are
That even if the world was looking
They could not see You--The real You
Have I changed the true reflection
To fulfil my own design
Making You what I want
Not showing You forth divine
Would I miss You now if You left and closed the door
Would my flesh cry out "I don’t need You anymore"
Or would I follow You--Seek to be restored
I wonder--I wonder
Will I ever learn
I wonder--Would I ever know You now
You see- only together do we paint a full picture of Jesus.
Only together do we present and produced balanced discipleship.
The barriers there are between us and the divisions that we pick over and exaggerate are not of God….
- predominantly. (I accept some have been necessary to keep the ’truth’)
That’s why something like the Feast is so important.
THE CHURCH: SOME ISSUES
There is so much more I could say- but I don’t want to as I don’t want to distract from this one, simple message. But let me say ONE thing, quickly:
- our focus has been too much on our empire and not on the Kingdom
o (by Our- I mean ALL of our focus. Across the ’churches’)
o Jesus said "seek first the ???? (KINGDOM)"…. He also said " I will build my ????? (CHURCH)".
" So- what’s our Job? To seek His Kingdom (not our empire!). He’ll do the rest.
" And when our focus is the Kingdom… the target becomes all that and those OUT THERE who aren’t experiencing it (not our little empire)
" And others become colleagues and partners- not competitors or threats
So- let’s just ask some Questions about this
1) if there is only one church in Winchester- do I need to be attached to a ’congregation’, then? Can’t I just say I’m ’part of the church in Winchester. Mission Winchester’ (as folks do!)
o what do you think?
o (answ: bible shows accountability, relationship, discipline and service
2) what about replicating things? If another church is doing it and it works- should we follow suit?
- What do you think?
- (why double up? Replicate? Take Oasis for example! I commend you all to go!)
3) Do we work together with all?
- What do you think?
- (?all who will. All who want people to know and experience more of Jesus.
o don’t worry- it is a kind of self-limiting thing! At one meeting "I’m not so sure about all this stuff about Jesus". well- if they don’t believe people need Jesus, they’re not going to be joining us!)
4) What about sharing resources? Do we share resources with other churches?
- what do you think? In what circumstances MIGHT we, and in what circumstances might we NOT? (I could do with your thoughts, here. Get these requests all the time- and we don’t even have enough resources for some stuff that is REALLY fruitful, here)
? The deciding factor is fruit for the Kingdom. Not the empire. Not keeping a project, group or idea going. It’s blessing what God is doing that is already fruitful for the Kingdom./
? Is the request for something fruitful or fruitless? Good idea or God idea? "The good is the enemy of the best". )
5) Any other statements, questions?