Building the Body of Christ

Read Ephesians 4.1-16

We are the Body of Christ. We need each other. God has made us this way. Some to function as hands, some as ears, some as eyes, some as a nose or a mouth. Whatever our gifts, we are called together to be the Body of Christ.

 Apostles. These are the witnesses of Christ. These members of the early Christian community would see to it that traditions were kept, stories were handed down. With their experience, they could taste the faith and knew when different expressions rising up were sour grapes or the fruit of the Spirit.

The apostles are the mouth of the body. Telling the stories. Tasting the teachings. How important it is to have apostles in the church. Those members who tell us the old, old story that means so much. Our identity as Christians in an ever-changing world is in many ways shaped and maintained by these elders who see to it that the story gets told, that the faith is handed down.

Prophets. What about the prophets? Some people think of prophets as people who can predict the future. The Bible shows us that prophets are more than just fortune tellers, but members within the community who not only see what’s going on in the present, but know how God has acted in the past and can show us visions of what the future might hold if things go the way they’ve been going. Prophets are not always welcome in the community. Their words can be harsh and challenging.

Are there prophets in our church today? I believe there are. I believe God continues to speak through persons who are burrs on the skin of believers. The prophetic voice might come through a child who doesn’t quite fit in. It may be a member who has become dissatisfied with the way things are. These prophets may stir us up in such a way that we jump too quick to labeling them “troublemakers” “radicals” or “liberals.”

The truth is we need prophets. Prophets keep the church moving, looking back to reclaim its heritage, looking forward to discover new paths of ministry. Prophets are like the nose of the body, sniffing out things that have gone stale, following fresh new paths. Though apostle and prophets may disagree, we need them both working together if the church is to be the church, in ministry and mission. We need them both to breathe new life into the church, new life that comes from God.

Evangelists. You may think of evangelists as those charismatic individuals able to promote the faith. Folks like Billy Graham with the gift to draw people to listen to the word of God and respond to God’s call. These are the evangelists, some better, some worse, that get the attention of the public. There are other, quieter evangelists. People who share their faith and convictions through acts of kindness, through a quality of life.

Evangelists are like the hands of the body, reaching out to others, sharing their faith in word and deed. It doesn’t take a charismatic person to be an evangelist, just someone who can be with people where they are.

Teachers. Teachers are the ears of the body. Teachers listen, not only for the questions that come from students, but also for the truth that comes from God. Teachers are not those who have all the answers, but women and men who, through a life of faith, walk alongside us seeking God where He may be found.

 Finally, pastors. The word “pastor” in Greek may also be translated as “shepherd”; one who keeps watch, who oversees. Pastors are like the eyes of the body who look out for difficulties and provide support.

One of the important functions of the pastor is to see that the different body parts are working together. This is a difficult job, because where different people are working together, there is bound to be conflict. A lot of pastors are tempted to avoid conflict, to shout “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” But if the eyes are always getting between the nose and the mouth, it won’t be long before the body needs serious plastic surgery.

Notice also that as this image is used in the Bible, none of us are the brains of the operation. Christ alone is the head. No one of us has sole possession of the truth, to know without a doubt what is best for the body. All we can do is go about the business of being ears or eyes or noses. Listening to, feeling for, sniffing out the presence of God in our world. Looking to the life of Jesus as our head.

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