Careful of analogies
OK, I'm going old school today. Both of my daily readers will most likely puke all over their screens, so strongly will be their response. But, hey, that's life in the big city.
Connecting to our culture is a big deal today. Some of us preacher/teacher types do that really well while some of us don't. There's no doubt a disconnect between church and the world. But, that was true in the time of Christ and during the apostolic age as well. Being in it but not of it creates a distance that only compromise can totally close. One of our temptations is to use analogies to depict spiritual truth. Jesus told parables and stories to communicate kingdom truth. He exercised great care, though, making sure his listeners knew kingdom truth was miraculous.
There's this thing about teams. So, Google "teamwork at church" and you'll get nearly
9 million possibilities in .36 seconds. It's one of the relevant teachable moments in church life these days, how to make a group of people function like a team, how to build teams that get things done, understanding team dynamics, people serving as team leaders, and some of the tag lines creative leaders have proposed---teamwork makes the dream work, among many more. Suddenly, we're in the team business, and in the process of learning to function like an athletic franchise or a group of elementary school students. Left on the sidelines of our game mentality is the fact that we're not a team. The Lord's disciples were not a team. Paul and his missionary colleagues were not a team. No, when God wanted to depict his miraculous church, he called them a body. When we refer to what we're doing as a team, we're taking the miraculous creator out of it.
Forgive me for being a quibbler but some of our impotency these days may involve the downgrading of the miraculous body of Christ to the smooth functioning of what a bunch of mere humans can pull off. Call me a nut case but this kind of reductionism lowers the bar of what we are when we're together. Think about this---
1. The church is identified as a body. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4,
Colossians 1, and many other New Testament passages reference the church as
The Body of Christ. We are Christ's physical presence in the world.
2. The church belongs to Christ, as the head of the body. When Jesus
mentioned the church in Matthew 16:18 he made it clear that it was his church.
Scripture further acknowledges Christ as the head of the body.
3. The church functions as a body. 1 Corinthians 12 amplifies the inter-
dependent working of the various body parts as as part of her miraculous
design. Unless there is dysfunction, the body parts were created and
strategically placed so that they work together for the good of the entire body.
4. Teams are not mentioned in the Bible. The times "team" is used in the
various translations is typically in reference to animals, horses and oxen,
working as a team. There are other arrangements where a group of people
function together---the covenant of marriage, divine partnerships, abiding
friendships, and fellowship. Still, each of them is also a divinely appointed
relationship with deeper attachments than being on the same team.
5. God appointed relationships are divine and permanent. One of the
disclaimers I hear many pastors announce these days is their distance from the
antics of human teams. No wonder the back door of the church spins off it's
hinges. Sports team members and people with keys to the executive wash
room, our modern day heroes, move with the money, or the winning record, or
the high octane reputation without reservation.
In an accountability group one day one of the guys confessed to having difficulty in preparing a series of lessons on the doctrine of the church. He wanted a fresh analogy to help explain how the church functions. Around the table we went, the ideators in the group going on and on with great, contemporary images of the church---an aircraft carrier, a bridge, a school, a hospital, an assembly line, a civic club, along with the biblical images bride, and building. After a long silence, someone said, "There's always the body!"
And, finally, we all agreed that the body was the best analogy, the one inspired by God and given to the Apostle Paul. We all have one, more or less. Most of us understand basically how it works, and even more, when it doesn't. In that moment we were all overwhelmed with the genius of God who explained the miracle of his church with such intricate precision.
And, how silly we are when we reduce it to a mere team.