The first picture is that of a “body” found in 1 Cor. 12.
The Apostle Paul likens the church, in unmistakable terms, to a physical body. Christ is the head and we are individual members—each of us uniquely gifted to be a particular part of Christ’s church. This concept requires a connectedness and intimate cooperation between all the respective members.
One could not imagine a body where each member simply did their own thing, and only when they wanted to do it. And yet, that is the model some are presenting today. (I realize the concept of the universal Church clearly exists in biblical doctrine, but the analogy of a body can only be fully realized in a local church.) Imagine trying to accomplish anything productive with one of your arms in one city, a foot in another city and an ear across the ocean! How can we truly make disciples of Christ other than through a local body? Consider just one example: church discipline. How can our church leaders faithfully “keep watch over … all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made [them] overseers” (Acts 20:28) except in a local body where all the members are striving together to live in harmony with scriptural accountability?
The second word picture worth considering is that of “building” the church found in 1 Peter 2:5.
Individual members are referred to as “lively” or “living” stones that make up a spiritual house. The picture is clear. The New Testament refers to Jesus Christ as both the foundation and the cornerstone of the church. Upon this foundation is laid “living stones”—individual believers. Together these stones make up Christ’s church.
This concept is used in Eph. 4 as well where we are told to “edify” the body of Christ. The term “edify” is literally a construction term that simply means to “build up.” The picture is meant to demonstrate that Christ is the foundation of the church; we are the living stones laboring to build each other up. Is any of that possible with a congregation that meets only through a television program?
The church may be sick and hurting. The church may need to be re-examined as to its methodology. The church definitely needs to be revived by God’s Spirit. However, the church is not dead.
There is no need to abandon a plan clearly revealed in the New Testament. The problem is not in the plan. Rather, the problem resides in those of us who are trying to implement it. Therefore, instead of declaring dead the local church, let’s pray that God would grant us wisdom and energy to help the church thrive in this postmodern age so that the next generation will say of the church: “Reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.”