Growing Up as the Local Expression of the Body of Christ
Wednesday Morning, March 7, 2001
While it is true that compromise, lukewarmness, disconnectedness, leaven, and unwillingness to empty our lives out and risk for one another together, daily—will destroy any chance of Jesus’ Life being manifest on any significant level in a church or locale, the thoughts below are VERY IMPORTANT! Even with the heart and willingness and obedience God is calling us to, GROWING UP STILL TAKES TIME! And, if we’re doing OUR part in self-sacrifice, obedience and daily Life love…it’s OKAY that things aren’t of instant mountaintop stature. Enjoy the Journey!—m
Thoughts From a Sister…
What follows here are a few thoughts that I had one day when I was considering the relationships in the Church—how it takes time for them to grow and develop, and the process of learning to walk life out together (Php. 1:27). It helped me to not feel rushed and to not have an expectation of running a spiritual marathon everyday. At the same time, I see that it takes work, practice and time—for learning, growing, coaching, and serious (often painful) training. I want all of that. Here’s what occurs to me, as I consider the Journey, the Process:—a sister
Establishing Links and Relationships….
TIME! It takes time for the human body to develop from the infant stage to adulthood. There is a process of growth, a process of trial and error. When a child is born they don’t immediately get up and walk out of the birthing room, begin speaking, and caring for themselves. It takes precious time and energy for a one-day-old infant to become a bubbling 5-year-old, the 5-year-old to become a 10-year-old and the 10-year-old to become an adult.
The human body is a very delicate and intricate mechanism/Masterpiece. A 30-year-old has spent 30 years with their fingers, toes, legs, arms and other body parts. They have spent 30 years perfecting their own movements and introducing each part to the other (so to speak). Everyday tasks of walking, eating and drinking that a 30-year-old doesn’t think about but does as second nature, can be a very difficult process for a 1-year-old. Take the process of eating a bowl of cereal. The process of making your arm, fingers and hand work together to put food on your spoon, balance the food while your arm carries it to your mouth and opening your mouth to eat it. If you watch a 1-year-old, you’ll notice this is not as smooth a motion as it is for a 30-year-old. The 1-year-old will spill half the food off the spoon and onto his lap before it reaches his mouth. What does reach his mouth will end up mostly on his chin and nose before he gets it into his mouth. In order for a 1-year-old to become efficient at this process of feeding himself, he has to repeat the process over and over and over and over again. (Heb. 5:14)
If you peel back some of the layers and look at the interactions of the body parts involved in eating a simple bowl of cereal, it’s quite amazing. The brain tells your right or left hand to pick up the spoon. Your body feels the spoon in your hand. This sends a signal to your brain that the spoon is in the hand and is waiting for the next command. Then the brain sends a signal back to the hand telling the hand to turn in such a way as to pick the cereal up in the spoon. The hand sends a signal back to the brain saying that it did this. Then the brain sends another signal telling the hand to balance the food while it tells the arm to move so many inches to the mouth at the same time telling the mouth to open so wide. It then tells the mouth to close over the spoon, the hand to pull the spoon out of the mouth and the arm to move away from the mouth, etc. This is just a small inkling of the interactions going on in your body to just take one bite of cereal! There are a thousand and one things happening all over your body simultaneously. You of course don’t think of each step along the way broken down like that because your body has learned how to do these things without giving them much thought. They have become second nature to you. At one point and time you did have to give much thought to it though, while you were learning and training.
You’ve trained certain parts of your body to do certain tasks. Try brushing your hair with the opposite hand that you normally brush it with. Or try writing with the opposite hand. You’ll find yourself having to give much thought to something that you’ve trained your other hand to do with no thought at all. Your hand that is familiar with a particular task has a relationship with your brain and your brain knows this is the hand that does it. You could train your non-dominate hand to have that kind of relationship with your brain for that task, but you would have to train it. You would have to establish that relationship.
People who have had neurological damage to their brains in some way, have to re-learn/re-train a lot of the things they taught themselves when they were younger. Some of the connections/relationships that had been established between their brain and body have been erased. So they, just like a 1-year-old, have to go through the process all over again of re-establishing the links they once had with their legs, arms, and any other parts of their body that were affected.
So, would it be fair to expect our 5 and 8-year-olds to go out and win Wimbledon? Run a world record marathon? Place first in the Tour de France? Cure cancer? These are things that take time and experience. They have to teach their head, arms, legs, and body parts how to work together. They have to teach their feet how to work together. (Amos 3:3) (Left foot here, then right foot there, left then right. Put your foot here if you want to turn and then put this foot there. Don’t lean your body too far back or you’ll fall. Don’t lean your body too far forward or you’ll fall). Every day from birth on we teach our arms how to work with our face. We teach our feet how to work with our bodies. We teach our bodies how to work with our head. All the parts are “getting to know each other.” After we have taught our bodies the basics of life there is even more to learn if we want to excel in certain areas.
All of these same principles can be applied to the Body of Christ today. When we interact with others in the Body, we are learning how to work together. We’re teaching ourselves how to run in unison with the other parts, the other believers. We train for spiritual marathons. It all starts very simply from day one. First, we learn how to roll over, then crawl, then stand up, and then walk. How to pick things up with our hands; use the thumb and fingers together to grab a hold, lift your arm, etc. We establish relationships and links with one another through thousands of interactions. We learn how the other works so that we can work together to attain a goal. We spend time together daily, learning how to walk, talk and live together. We are being “katartidzo” (Eph. 4:11-12) “equipped”—literally translated “mended together.” We see an area that someone may excel in, so we help them train and work with them. If they’re trying to establish links that will benefit the whole body, we must all work together to help them so that they can perform this task. If my left foot wants to keep walking around and the rest of my body is sitting, this will create chaos for the whole body. Imagine it. It is not possible for the whole body to attain a certain task unless it works together. Again, “Can two walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3). Imagine running a marathon and the left foot says to the rest of the body, “I’m going to take a break here, you guys go on.” NOT! Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. It’s all or nothing. What one does, whether good or bad, affects the whole.
So, like a newborn babe teaching all its body parts to work together, the Church in most cities and boroughs and villages is learning to work together with all of its parts. If the church has been deeply together for 5 years—(even if it has intimate relationships with Foundational Gifts [Eph. 2:20-22, 4:11, 1Cor. 12:28])—it will still likely look like a 5-year-old child in its knowledge and abilities. After 15 years of God’s Habitat of daily Life, it will look like a 15-year-old—not a 40 or 60-year-old, or (thank God) still a 5-year-old. Even a 15-year-old is just a pup! If we’ve been trying to make the connections and links (truly giving our lives away daily, confessing sins one to another, bearing one another’s burdens, being “mended together for works of service,” etc.) for five years, we’ll still be just five. We won’t likely perform together at the level of people who have been learning Jesus’ ways for 20 years. Only as we build deep, vulnerable and true relationships with others, and their Gifts, will we progress past babyhood, as a Body of Believers. But, regardless, IT TAKES TIME, even in the Best Environment, to grow up. (After 15 years in Jerusalem, they were still trying to work out some of the Basics! Though wonderful things had happened, Acts 15 shows there was still much more to do, even there. That local church was still just a teenager!) Babies will ALWAYS get oatmeal on their faces, and young groups of Believers will never be all that impressive when they’re still babes. And they’ll still have a lot of work to do as they go through their teens.
Although “growing up is hard to do,” OH, the Holy Result! Jesus’ Bride, “making Herself ready” for the return of Her Betrothed! No longer a pimple-faced, temperamental, self-serving, opinionated, “do my own thing” little girl, but a beautiful, and radiant, and spotless angelic Bride! This is not just theory brothers and sisters, if the Bible is to be BELIEVED!!! The Real Deal—it’s our inheritance, and “HIS inheritance, in the Saints!!” A City set on a hill… THAT CAN’T BE HIDDEN.