Roots (Body of Christ)

This is by far the most misunderstood and mysterious aspect of Christianity, and for that reason it is often ignored altogether. The reason for this is that it has to do with what God does to a person who puts their faith in Jesus by believing that he was raised from the dead and confessing him as Lord (in modern terms that would be like declaring Jesus as the new CEO of your life). When a person believes in Jesus, God sends that person the Holy Spirit to live within them.

For obvious reasons this is a mysterious and powerful act of God, one that is definitely more experienced than completely understood. Nonetheless, I am going to try to give a short explanation of what this is all about. The way I initially understand this gift is by looking at what it tells me about the very nature of God. God is a personal God, one that wants to connect with us in a very powerful way. This is why our relationship with God is described in the Bible not just as King/subject but  as Father/son, groom/bride, brothers, and even friends. God is telling us that he can relate to us in a very personal way.

It also reveals that God wants a total transformation of our life based on our relationship with him. He doesn’t want us to simply follow a set of rules dictated by God from a distant heaven, but rather he wants us to have the very Spirit of God dwelling within us to teach, guide, and comfort us in this life.

What is the Body of Christ?

The “body of Christ” was a phrase used by the first Christian leaders to describe the dynamic of all the believers in Christ. Paul explained it like this:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part of but of many.[1] 

So believers all shared the same Spirit within them, the Spirit of God, but each person was unique with regard to their gifting and abilities. It was also understood that God placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.[2] 

Basically, the body of Christ was a way of understanding how God has specifically equipped his people to function together as a team. It is our job to recognize the gifts that God has given to each of us and facilitate and encourage the use of those gifts to serve others. Peter  wrote about this in one of his letters, each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.[3]

The clergy/laity confusion

One of the worst cancers within the body of Christ is the concept of a professional clergy who is over the congregational laity. The problem with this is that it destroys the significance of each person within the body of Christ and elevates “professionals” who appear to be the only ones qualified to do all the heavy lifting.

Leadership was understood by the earliest Christians as being tasked with the responsibility of equipping God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up, rather than facilitating a consumer mentality among believers.[4]

What to do?

The practical application of the teaching of the Body of Christ is to shift the focus away from “professional” Christians doing the work and encouraging each member of the body to discover their personal gifting and use it to serve others. This might take what most people would consider “drastic” measures, such as scrapping the sermon model or the office of “Senior Pastor,” but we need to do whatever it takes to get back to our Christian roots of each believer being a vitally important part of the body of Christ.

[1] 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

[2] 1 Corinthians 12:18

[3] 1 Peter 4:10

[4] Ephesians 4:12

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