Many people today mourn the lack of unity in the church. Drive along any street in America, and you’ll see a great number of denominations: Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and everything in between.
But maybe all that variety isn’t so bad. After all, we don’t all enjoy the same styles of music or the same kinds of preaching. As long as a church is keeping Jesus Christ and Him crucified at the center of its doctrine, does it matter if the worship differs slightly from another?
We tend to assume that the Early Church was more unified than the modern church of today. Perhaps in doctrine, that was true. But take a close look at the scriptures and you’ll see that each congregation had its own personality and focus. This drove the Apostle Paul to write Romans 12:3-8:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul speaks more about the different parts of the body of Christ and how they all are important. From what I’ve gathered reading Paul’s letters to the churches, the Church at Corinth was focused on using the gifts of the Spirit–in other words, charismatic. The Church at Philippi exercised great generosity (Philippians 4:14-18). And the Bereans devoted themselves to careful study of the Word (Acts 17:11).
In the body of Christ, some churches are “mouths,” dedicating themselves to teaching the Bible and praising God. Others are “hands,” giving generously to those in need. Some are “feet,” sending out missionaries to far corners of the world. Some are “knees,” interceding in prayer for others. Some are “eyes” and “ears,” drinking in the revolutionary truths of the Bible.
Know what the Bible doesn’t speak of in the body of Christ? Butts. These are the congregations that won’t give to the needy because they fear enabling the behaviors that keep the poor in poverty. They don’t show any enthusiasm during worship out of concern for being judged emotional or charismatic. They don’t study the Bible (or anything else) because “reading is hard” and they “don’t have the time.” They don’t send out missionaries because they claim to lack resources to do so. They might elect to put on a VBS or a Christmas cantata once in a while to strengthen the church’s standing in the community, but they want someone else to do all the work. To them, church is a social club where they fulfill their weekly 2-hour commitment to God. In other words, they do nothing.
I’ve been in many different types of churches: mouths, feet, knees, hands and butts. Butt churches are dead churches. They’re boring. They’re lifeless. There’s no joy of the Lord in them. The Bible says the Spirit distributes different gifts to believers as He sees fit. There’s no gift called “sitting.”
It doesn’t matter what the sign says over the church door. What matters is what goes on within it. If you are a believer and attend church regularly, ask yourself, “Where does my church fit in?” My church is a “hand,” and, boy, do I ever love it.