The church today in many ways is a valley of dry bones. Church membership and regular attendance in the major denominations has been declining for at least thirty years. Of the nondenominational or new denominational churches, attendance has been static at best. Individual churches may experience growth but it is usually accompanied by decline in other congregations. For the most part, we pass people around. New congregations spring up and experience rapid growth but they soon find that it is only temporary as their new members wander off to the next new thing that comes along. Very few churches grow from new conversions and those that do only seem to balance those that are having more funerals than births.
Paul says in Romans 12:4-5 that “as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” He makes almost the exact same statement in I Corinthians 12:12, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” Then, in verse 27, he says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.”
What is the basic make-up of what we call church? Human definitions can complicate it, but Jesus said that “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.” Sure, He relates to us individually, but there is something that takes place in the spirit when two or more believers get together. What are the words Paul uses when he talks about the church? “No longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…in whom the whole building, being joined together…being built together for a living place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19, 21-22). All the Biblical descriptions of “church” have to do with relationships.
The Greek word translated “church” is always plural. Its literal translation is “called out ones.” We cannot be a called out one. It’s always plural! Remember what Paul said? One body, many members; all the members in one body.
Paul says in I Corinthians 12:13 that all of us were baptized into one body by one Spirit. This is how God places us in the body. When an individual trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit takes that person and baptizes him or her into Jesus. When that happens to me, I am now a member of the church. I am a part of the body. I may not know what part I am but I am a member of the body. When the life of all the members comes together, it is a beautiful thing to see. It can happen in a worship service on Sunday morning. It can happen in someone’s living room in a small group meeting. It can happen when two or three people get together for prayer. It happens when the group of pastors I meet with gets together at IHOP. Life begets life. A living relationship with Christ is infectious. It happens in the worship. It happens in the preaching of the word. It happens in the nursery with the little ones. It happens in the fellowship hall over lunch. It happens anytime two members of the body connect with each other.