Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 that the Corinthian church members, the ones who are truly in Christ, are members of His body. They are His body parts. They serve His purposes, fulfill what He wants done, and they do it all together.
He says all this indicating what their church should look like.
A group of people working together, each in the way (and with the gifting) God has called him to, for the cause of Christ.
That last sentence is a fair definition of what Paul wants a church to be as described in 1 Corinthians 12. Now contrast that with the following definition of what I think a large number of us 21st century Americans think a church should be: A place where I am enabled to feel God’s presence by being taught in a way I understand and led in (musical) worship that resonates with me.
I grew up with a pastor dad. I’ve been a member, or the equivalent of a member, in about 5 churches, ranging from 20 people to about 500. And I think a decent number of Christians in those churches, and churches like them, and definitely a decent number of people claiming Christ who aren’t parts of churches now, think of church as that. A place where they are led, given to, taught, served, and appealed to.
Like most dangerous errors, this has so many jagged edges because it’s partially true. Yes, in a healthy New Testament church we will be served. We obviously will be taught and led. We will be appealed to when in sin or when needed. We will be given wonderful things, including the time and prayer and hearts of the saints we are bonded with. But the people I’m worried about? I think they think that is all a church is. Instead of the body of Christ, or a body of Christ within the larger people of God across time and space, they almost see church as there personal recharging station, or spiritual Genius Bar.
According to the New Testament’s way of looking at the body/church/bride of Christ, we don’t use the church; we are in the church. We aren’t saved and then hopefully find a church, we are saved to the church. The called out people of God are Christ’s bride, and we are needed and used members of her. And we are meant to be serving in the local expression of her that we are a part of (or should be a part of).
Fingers weren’t just made to get manicures. They were made to wrap around hammers and open up doors and clasp the hands of loved ones and hold flashlights in dark places. Necks weren’t made to just get massages. They were made to turn the head so that the body can know where it is going.
We have a role to play in the church, not just an itch to be scratched by her. 1 Corinthians 12 says that the body needs each of its parts to be working, not to be looking around for the body that most jives with its personality, or can give it the most goosebumps.