Copyright Rev. Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. 1992




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 living.

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 moment.

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 living.

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 the other.

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 end.

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 good.

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 way.

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 etc.

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 hurting person?

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.