|One Body by Deborah Martin|
We are God's Church, the channel He uses to reach a lost soul. There is no other human force on this planet with the ability to bring about the salvation of the lost. That task has been assigned to us.
It is an ominous responsibility, and if we do not take up this cross, there is no one else who will!
Since the beginning of God's desire for a people to call His own, there has been ONE church. This fellowship began with Adam, continued with Abraham, and led to Christ.
We now discover our godly communion through a single declaration:
It is not church membership which makes us Christian. It is our personal faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Church membership has never been a requirement of God.
But men, through the organization of a seemingly endless array of religious denominations, have inadvertently made membership in their particular church more important than salvation.
Some will claim the act of membership is nothing more than administrative necessity, but I challenge that view.
If you look past the obvious outward context and form, you will find that membership is not simply an issue of commitment to the Christian theology, it has become a symbol with magnified importance in spiritual definitions and community status.
In my own reading of the Bible I have come to suspect the original church did not keep membership records. They seem to have simply busied themselves with the sharing of the gospel and helping whoever God brought to them.
In the beginning, becoming a Christian meant sacrifice and suffering, sometimes the loss of one's life. This created a natural sense of priorities unlike the one's found in the multitude of comforts in American congregations.
We are told the early Christians "had all things in common," meaning they gave what they had and took what they needed. This individual and communal action was both a statement of commitment and a survival necessity. They lived in times of spiritual and political intensity, their needs were often desperate.
This ultimate sharing was a starkly visible statement of unity: of being one with God and one with each other.
I have no doubt the true Church will see the need for this level of relationship when the Last Days arrive, but I wonder if we are ready for such a time. God requires so much more than we commit to Him.
The Acts 5 story of Ananias and Sapphira tells us that every contribution to the communal efforts of the early church was voluntary. It also tells us motive and method was critically important to God.
In relation to membership, I have found just one Bible story: the 2 Samuel 24 account of David's numbering the people of Israel and Judah - ending with a judgment by God that cost the Jewish community 70,000 lives.
God's desired method of operation was, is, and always will be, I believe, a relationship of faith. Living by Faith is the only method by which God keeps our attention, receives our obedience, and determines His right to our glory.
Over the course of time, membership in a local church has come to be more than a method of keeping a mailing list. It has become a requirement for involved participation and a distraction to everything God is and hopes to be in His relationship with us.
In the moment of salvation every new Christian becomes a part of every other Christian. In God's eyes, there are no boundaries between us, only a separation of tasks, of our placement and duties within the greater Body of Christ. Once we are saved, we grow acutely aware that we belong wholly to God. All we are and all we possess needs to be dedicated to God's use, not to the church. He can use us as He pleases, He can use what He has given us as He pleases. Our sole duties are trust and obedience.
This special relationship between God and Man is a 24-hour commitment, not a Sunday morning excursion.
God manipulates the different parts of our lives in order for us to become channels of blessing to saints in need and to utilize us for the evangelism of the lost. We become God's human tools for reaching a world in distress.
God's ownership of all aspects of our lives extends to every Christian every day, and includes the operations of every church every day.
We are the Body of Christ together.
No individual or church is more important than another.
This is a spiritual reality we often see in words, but find difficult to produce in our lives. It goes against the needs of the flesh. Consequently, the working out of God's Will over our wills creates clashes within the Body.
Humanity has not changed in all of time. Just as we clash within our own church cultures, there were many conflicts in the early church. What has changed is how we solve our church problems.
In the first days of Christ's Church the primary focus was to keep their theology clear. Disputes occurred as Satan worked to destroy their unity, and solutions were prayerfully sought. Disagreements were handled collectively and differing views were vehemently discussed until God's Will was known.
Whatever the dispute involved, it was then considered resolved because:
Unity under God's authority was the main focus of every man. Christ's Church continued as one even in the midst of great divisions of thought.
Over the subsequent years we have lost this attitude of submission. Instead, we have built up a habit of segregating the Body into as many pieces as Satan can move us to form, each split making Christ's Body weaker and weaker for the battles it must fight if God is to be glorified as He deserves.
Unity among the entire Body of Christ is a forgotten concept. Pride and self-will now reign supreme.
Putting aside our petty differences, and letting go of those isssues which have no eternal significance, we must begin to seek God together for HIS answers to the serious questions we may have.
Then we must corporately submit to the Will of the God we profess to serve.
Revival will come no other way.
We have allowed Satan to beguile us. We fight for our rights and cling to our personal desires more than we ever think about God's true desires.
Human pride has ruled over submission to God's authority for so long now we can't even recognize it.
We create programs and elevate them to the status of God's decrees. When we disagree with God or church, we leave, we form another church, we ask for God's blessing on our divisions ...and then we wonder why God means nothing to so many.
By not taking the time to see the effect of our divisions, we have helped to ruin our generations, our world.
What began as a Church with a potential capacity to radically alter the course of men's earthly and eternal lives has now become little more than a social club. Isn't it time we changed ourselves so we can change our world?
God has not stopped talking to us, we have stopped listening to Him.