‘Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, and after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrators, varieties of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:27, 28).’
Christians are not ignorant of the fact that together they are the mystical body of Christ. This body is comprised of millions of local churches that are located in different countries around the world. Together they are described as the holy catholic church – This is not the church of Rome that venerates the virgin Mary, but the *church of Christ, in which His Spirit dwells.
Each member of a local church has a part to play in the functioning of the body, and in playing their individual parts they work together in the unity of the Spirit. Together with other churches they are the functioning body of Christ. Paul explains it this way: ‘For as we have many members in one body, but all members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Romans 12:4, 5). This is the miraculous, living body of Christ.
Chosen by Him and united in Him (Ephesians 1:4-6), He is their Head (5:23), and members are His body that works in accordance with His will and is led by His Spirit. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians wrote: ‘And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all (1:22, 23).’ Thus the riches of His fullness fills the church, and members experience and know: ‘the riches of the glory of His inheritance (v 18).’
So the church is VERY special (Titus 2:14). It is a living **organism – a body that breaths and moves by the power (Ephesians 1:19) of the Spirit. Each part is related to the others. If one part suffers, the others feel it (1 Corinthians 12:26). Members love one another (John 13:34). Each of them work for the good of the others, and they all pull together for the purpose of carrying out the Head’s will, which is to dispense His love, point people to Him (cf. Isaiah 45:22), and to be His disciples for the making of more disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20).
Well, what’s been happening to Christ’s physical body here on earth over the past three or so months of enforced segregation, and in some cases complete isolation on account of the Coronavirus?
This virus surely has been a powerful tool of the devil, for it has been remarkably efficient at keeping the saints apart from one another, and hence not being able to function properly as an integrated body. In some instances the only way Christians have been able to communicate is by using a telephone or by writing letters. Those who have had access to Zoom, FaceTime and WhatsApp have been more fortunate. For them this technology has been a blessing. On a personal level I’ve very much missed not been able to meet in person, to shake hands and to hug those who need hugging.
There’s a saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, and I’m pretty certain the devil is very happy that church members haven’t been able to meet together. He’ll be hoping they’ll lose heart and lose interest in their mission of proclaiming the gospel. Indeed, division and separation has always been his strategy from the very beginning when in the Garden of Eden. There he persuaded Eve to disobey God and to disobey her husband, which resulted in their separation from sweet communion with God. He threw them out of the garden into a cursed world.
One of the beautiful things about meeting in person is being able to encourage one another in our walk with the Lord. Physical separation makes this difficult. Not being able to break bread as the body of Christ is extremely hard, but the time will come when once again we’ll be able to share in remembering His death and resurrection. We can have hope of this because churches in parts of the world have succeeded in doing it as they’ve come out of lockdown. That’s a great encouragement.
However, it is unlikely things will ever be the same, because of the impact of the virus. We’ll have to rethink how we do things. Some traditional practices may need to go. We’ll need to question things like meeting twice on a Sunday for praying, singing, praising God, hearing sermons, breaking bread, fellowshipping and encouraging one another in our walk and service for God’s glory. Are there better ways of doing these things, perhaps by using the Internet more, and by meeting at different venues, maybe at members homes? Do we really need to own a permanent building where we can gather for worship?
Coronavirus is not going away for a long time, unless an effective and cheap vaccine can be made available on a massive scale. Therefore, we are going to have to adjust to a new normal.
The building where I meet to worship with others is rather cramped, which means adhering to the current social distancing rule of two metres would be difficult. Only a few would be able to worship at any one time; and ensuring strict hygiene in the toilets and the kitchen would also be difficult. Keeping children apart would be asking a bit much.
Most importantly, whatever we do, we must do it in accordance with God’s word. Do we prioritise the preaching of the gospel to the world where it needs to be heard? Preaching it as we currently do to the converted, was not the practice of the early church. Like them we should be preaching the gospel on the streets and proclaiming it from the rooftops for the world to hear. Are we geared up to making disciples, and are we serving one another in love as Jesus has commanded?
Answers to these questions should reshape the nature of our local churches. We must be astute in the use of our resources and be wise in how we function as Christ’s body.
All of the above makes me conscious of the importance of being united in the Spirit as Christ’s body.
We are to be a light to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47), and we are to ‘make disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20),’ For ‘There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:4-6).’
*Who are the Church?
**The Organic Church