The Extra Chunky Church 2: The Body of Christ?

Have you ever had your thinking completely changed, by a complete stranger, as you got into his car, on your way to getting a chicken parm sub? It’s not an everyday occurrence for me either, but it did happen once. Interestingly, the stranger was a young seminary student, the topic was church, and the person whose thinking he challenged was Rick Warren. More importantly, perhaps, the sandwich was delicious.

It happened about ten years ago. I was asked to teach one day of a class on church planting at a seminary. My focus was on how to start a church for people who don’t like church. I shared principles on how to get non-Christians to want to come to and stay at your church. I vetted those principles with stories of lives radically transformed in our church. Then came our lunch break and the moment that turned me into a student, appeased guilt I had been carrying, and set me free.

A couple guys asked if I would go with them to Penn Station Subs. I said, “Yes please.” On the walk to the car, one of them told me, “Vince, I love your church. What you guys are doing is amazing.”

I thanked him, but said, “You think that because I get to talk about what our church is great at. There are a lot of things we’re not so great at, and which wouldn’t impress you.”

He replied, “Yeah, but that’s what’s so great about us being the body of Christ.”

I was confused. I told him, “I am confused.”

He looked puzzled and launched into, “Well, you know, the churches of a community, or of the world, make up the body of Christ. Each church is a different body part, so each church has a unique function. Your church is amazing at the role God has given you of reaching radically lost people. And the way you do it inspires and equips other churches to do better at helping people find Jesus.”

All I said was, “Huh.” Partly because I wasn’t sure what to think, and partly because I was very focused on the experience I was about to have with a chicken parm sub.

I was fully aware of the “body concept” in the Bible, but had only thought of the “body of Christ” as being a church and the parts of the body as being the people of that one church. I had never thought of the “body of Christ” as being made up of multiple churches.

Could he be right that different churches had unique parts to play in the story of God, and in advancing his Kingdom in their local communities? The idea seemed to fly in the face of teaching (perhaps most notably in The Purpose Driven Church) that encouraged churches to be balanced, that a church has a variety of purposes (worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism) and needs to focus on and seek to be effective in each equally.

I agreed that the Church has a variety of purposes, but started to wonder if churches need to be balanced? I couldn’t find a verse requiring it in the Bible, and the more I thought about the idea of balance, the more I realized that the idea flies in the face of reality.

Why? I’ll share that next time. Until then keep your seatbacks in their upright and locked position, and check out Auxano.