BODY BUILDERS OR SOCIAL CLIMBERS?
I would like to consider whether we, as local assemblies, are bodies
as the Scripture states we are to be, or are we societies.
Forgive me for the length of this quote. Society according to Webster's
Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary is: "1: companionship or association with
one's fellows: friendly or intimate intercourse: COMPANY 2: a voluntary
association of individuals for common ends; esp: an organized group working
together or periodically meeting because of common interests, beliefs,
or profession 3 a: an enduring and cooperating social group whose members
have developed organized community, nation, or broad grouping of people
having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests
4 a: a part of a community that is a unit distinguishable by particular
aims or standards of living or conduct : a social circle or a group of
social circles having a clearly marked identity ... b: a part of the community
that sets itself apart as a leisure class and that regards itself as the
arbiter of fashion and manners 5 a: a natural group of plants usu. of a
single species or habit within an association b: the progeny of a pair
of insects when constituting a social unit (as a hive of bees); broadly:
an interdependent system of organisms or biological units" P 1119 (By permission.
From Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam-Webster
Inc., publisher of the Merriam-Webster (registered) Dictionaries.)
Let's list the aspects of "society" from this definition:
1. Society is companionship with others.
2. Society is association with others.
3. Society contains friendly conversation.
4. Society contains intimate conversation.
5. Society is being with others toward a common end.
6. Society is being with others because of interests.
7. Society is being with others because of common beliefs.
8. Society is being with others because of a common profession.
9. Society is an organized group of people with traditions.
10. Society is an organized group of people with institutions.
11. Society is an organized group of people with collective activities.
12. Society is an organized group of people with collective interests.
13. Society is a recognizable community because of their aims.
14. Society is a recognizable community because of their standards of
15. Society is a recognizable community because of their living or conduct.
16. Society is a group of people that stand out because of their identity.
17. Society is a group of people that set themselves as a standard of
fashion or manners.
To begin with I see little difference between the above list and the
church in America today. I took a class in college on sociology that required
us to read a book that held to the teaching that society was based on groups
of people that are playing games. The doctors play the doctor game and
do what doctors do, the lawyers play the lawyer game and do what lawyers
do, and the laborers play the laborer game and do what laborers do. The
author's thought was that the doctors did things that doctors do because
that's what doctors do, etc. Naturally the Christians would be playing
the Christian game and would be doing what Christians do.
I am beginning to believe that some Christians and churches are playing the Christian game. We talk a good talk, we work a good work, we do what is expected of us because we are Christians playing the Christian game.
SO, what is the difference between the Christians in our day and the
idea of society? Is the church a society within the general lost society
of our world today? Is the church a mini-society that operates among the
other mini societies in the world?
The church is told that it is a body. Just what did the Lord mean by
that? How can we relate that concept to the church? Can we be a body and
also fit the thought of a society? Because we have already stated that
the church seems to be a society, is there something that we should be
doing that would automatically change us from the status of being a society
to the status of being a body?
BODY VS SOCIETY: Let's consider the ideas of body and society for a
1. A body is living while a society is organized. Even though the church
may be loosely organized, the primary emphasis is supposed to be on the
2. A body is made up of interdependent parts that must draw life from
the common physical bond, while a society is made up of people that are
drawn together because of a common mental or ideological bond.
3. A body part cannot exist apart from the whole, while a part of society
can exist and thrive apart from the whole.
4. A body is directed by one source, the head, while a society is led
by the dictates of the whole.
5. A body is in the business of survival of the whole, while a society
is open to destruction of the parts and/or the whole for the survival of
Illustration: The communist block was a whole that is now in the process
of destruction for the survival of the parts. The church body must and
will survive because we have the Head, Jesus Christ, directing toward that
6. The body exists to grow and develop, while an organization may or
may not desire to grow and develop.
7. In the body, growth and development is automatic because it is living,
while an organization must plan and labor to grow and develop.
8. A body is sensible, or it can sense the world outside of itself in
all respects, such as emotional, mental, and physical, while a society
may or may not sense the world around them.
Are these differences important? I suspect that the differences are
the keys to why many of us originally felt that the church fit into the
definition of society. The differences, if realized and maintained in the
church then should move a local assembly from the place of being a society
to the place of being a body.
Let's list these differences in a short thought that would help us work
on being sure that our churches are bodies and not societies.
1. A BODY GROWS NATURALLY: A living body is growing naturally because
of individual parts reproducing themselves (cells). In the broader thought,
the head is teaching the limbs and parts to work together for the common
A body is an organism not an organization. An organism lives, while
an organization is given life by its participants.
2. A BODY'S PARTS ARE INTERDEPENDENT: Every part is interdependent,
thus every part is of supreme importance as a part. A part missing is a
part that is not supplying something to others in the body.
3. THE PART CANNOT SURVIVE ALONE: A believer apart from a local assembly
faulters spiritually, thus when a part absents itself the whole OUGHT to
be concerned rather than being critical or allowing them to go their own
4. THE HEAD DIRECTS THE WHOLE: When the parts begin to direct the whole
rather than the head, the group cannot be a body.
5. THE BODY WILL SURVIVE: This would have application in the area of
problems that we allow to develop into church splits. A body cannot split
and survive, so why do we feel that a church can?
6. THE BODY EXISTS TO GROW: The Church should exist to grow and develop.
This eliminates the purpose of growth for any other reason than this. Growth
is not to provide for building of personal kingdoms, of buildings, budgets
7. THE BODY IS LIVING: How much energy is spent in the church organizing
growth campaigns, and contests to produce what should happen naturally?
8. THE BODY SENSES ITS SURROUNDINGS: Are we as a body of believers really
sensitive to the hurt and destiny of the world? Are we really sensing the
impending danger of hell for those around us? Are we open to helping a
Body has been described as a mass of matter. Some indicate it is a mass
that is different from other masses. Now, to call the church a mass is
not too appropriate, however the idea of a mass that is distinct from other
masses SHOULD BE descriptive of the church. We should be distinct from
the rest of the world. We should be, shall I say, easily distinguishable
from the world.
So why do we dress, act, spend, live, invest etc. like the world?
Another item that is important for us to consider is the attraction
of those outside the church to the church. Is that attraction because they
desire to be a part of a living, thriving, growing body or are they attracted
to what the society can do for them. I fear that many in our churches are
socially attracted rather than spiritually attracted.
I trust that you will consider the differences between the body that
we are supposed to be and the society that we seem to have become. I trust
that you will commit yourself in your local church to work toward being
a body rather than a society.