Our Goal is Getting Connected

My primary responsibilities on staff involve helping people to get better connected to God and our church, and the development of small groups; I see the two as being compatible. But getting connected is not automatic for a lot of people. Many are content to sit back and receive what the church has to offer, but do not understand that the entire body needs to be functioning if the body is to be healthy.

The world has never been more connected. Companies are laying millions of miles of fiber optics and shooting satellites into space. Kids all around the world are texting each other on cell phones, yet we hear about people all the time who feel more and more disconnected. They feel like they’re out of touch and lonely. Loneliness can come even when we are surrounded by a million people in Virginia Beach.

Our fast-moving lives wreak havoc on our relationships. We don’t feel nearly as connected to each other as people did a generation ago. We are not sitting on the front porch at sundown, watching the kids play and talking to neighbors over the back fence. These days we can close our electronic garage door and step into our house without even greeting our neighbors.

Yet we were created for relationship. The first thing God said was, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” God said that human beings were not made for isolation. We were made for connection. Why? We were created in the image of God. The Bible says God is love. And to love, you’ve got to have somebody else around you.

One of the crucial purposes of our church is to help people get rid of this sense of disconnection. There are people in our facility every weekend who aren’t connected to our church in a meaningful way. That’s why from time to time we offer the Connections Class.

Part of that class emphasizes the four great word pictures of the New Testament church. These metaphors tell us a lot about why God wants us to connect with one another. They give us a picture of what the church should be.

The Bible says that that being spiritually connected means:

We’re built like a building: “In Christ you are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Ephesians 2:22 NRSV). We are meant to fit together like bricks in a new building. It’s essential that the parts of a building fit together. You aren’t safe otherwise because there’s no support. Those who aren’t connected to the church family in any meaningful way have no support. Life is tough. We all need the support of people who care about us. King’s Grant can provide that for the people in our community.

We’re joined in a body: “Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s Body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others” (Romans 12: 4-5 TLB). That which Jesus did when he was here in his physical body, he wants to do today through our church. We are the body of Christ on Earth. We are his hands. We are his feet. All of us have to play our part. Being part of the body of Christ means we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, and if we don’t play our specific part, the mission of the church is impacted.

We’re born into a family: “I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live. God’s family is the church” (1 Timothy 3:15 GW). I like this one because it doesn’t take any explanation. Most people think that Christianity is a belief system. There are beliefs in Christianity, but it’s so much more. Christianity is a belong system. The Bible says we were born again into God’s family when we became a follower of Jesus. It also says that we have been adopted into God’s family. Both are great metaphors for what it should mean to be a part of the church.

Because those of us who follow Christ are part of God’s family, we should accept one another and love one another. Now let me be very clear here. We don’t approve of everyone’s behavior. That’s not love. If someone is doing something hurtful, approval is the opposite of love. But we must accept and love one another. Your family hasn’t always approved of everything you’ve done, but – I hope – they’ve loved you anyway. That’s a picture of the church that your congregation needs to see.

We’re attached to a vine: “Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me” (John 15:4 GW). Being connected isn’t just a horizontal issue. It’s a vertical one as well. Our people need to be connected to God himself, and Jesus says when we are connected to him it’s like being attached to a vine. Fruit not connected to a vine dies. It’s that simple. Our people can have all the interpersonal relationships possible, but if they are not connected to God, they will not have the life that God wants them to have.

Paul continues Jesus’ metaphor when he talks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. When we’re connected to the True Vine, there will be certain spiritual fruit in our lives. If you’re connected with God, those fruit will characterize your life, and that’s the kind of connection we all want.

From the Connections Class workbook, I teach about six symbols of the church:

  1. The Church is a Fellowship:
    • Acts 2:42 – (they devoted themselves to fellowship, prayer, teaching…).
    • Ephesians 4:3 – (united in spirit, bonded with peace).
    • Romans 14:19 – (aim for harmony in the church, build each other up).
    • John 17:23 – (Jesus desires complete unity, so the world will know that the Father sent the Son, and loves them).
  2. The Church is a Family:
    • First Peter 3:8 – (be of one mind, sympathize with each other, love each other, have compassion, love, humility).
    • Galatians 6:10 – (do good to all, especially to those in the household).
    • Hebrews 2:10-12 – (we are declared to be holy and brothers of Jesus).
    • First Peter 4:17 – (judgment begins with the family or household of God…).
    • First Timothy 5:1-2 – (speak to others as fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters).
    • First Timothy 3:4-5 – (must manage his own family well to lead God’s family).
  3. The Church is a Flock (Jesus’ favorite description for the church).
    • John 10:1-30, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 25:33 – (Jesus’ imagery with sheep).
    • John 21:16-17 – (the flock is led by a shepherd).
    • First Peter 5:1-2 – (overseers and shepherds are leaders of the church).
    • Acts 20:17-18, 28 – (elders are to keep watch over them, like shepherds).
    • Titus 1:5-7, 1 Timothy 5:17 – (elders will direct the affairs of the church).
  4. The Church is a Body (not a business, an organism not an organization):
    • First Corinthians 12:27 – (we are members of Christ’s body).
    • Ephesians 5:23 – (He is Savior of the body, His church).
    • Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18 – (and the church is His body, made full and complete).
    • Colossians 2:19 – (Christ is head of the body and He holds it together).
    • Romans 12:4-6 – (the members of the body working together).
  5. The Church is a Bride:
    • Second Corinthians 11:2 – (…I promised you as a pure bride to one husband, who is Christ).
    • Isaiah 62:4 – (Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride).
    • Revelation 19:7 – (…For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself).
    • Revelation 21:9 – (Then one of the seven angels … said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb”).
  6. The Church is a Building:
    • First Corinthians 3:9-10 – (…you are God’s field, God’s building. … I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care).
    • Ephesians 2:20-21 – (In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit).

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Paul’s Concept of the Church

The word ekklesia occurs about 60 times. it is both singular and plural.

The body of believers in a given place:

  1. I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; (Romans 16:1)
  2. And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter [that is coming] from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16)
  3. Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. (1 Thessalonians 1:1)
  4. Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: (2 Thessalonians 1:1)
  5. Who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; (Romans 16:4)
  6. And all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: (Galatians 1:2)
  7. Now, brethren, we [wish to] make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, (2 Corinthians 8:1)
  8. As for Titus, [he is] my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, [they are] messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ. (2 Corinthians 8:23)
  9. Therefore openly before the churches show them the proof of your love and of our reason for boasting about you. (2 Corinthians 8:24)
  10. Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure upon me [of] concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:28)

The concept of a building did not come until about the third century: Early Christians met in houses.

  1. Also [greet] the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. (Romans 16:5)
  2. The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. (1 Corinthians 16:19)
  3. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. (Colossians 4:15)

Gathering for worship and instruction:

  1. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:18)
  2. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but [even] more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:4-5)
  3. So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. (1 Corinthians 14:9)
  4. If therefore the whole church should assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? (1 Corinthians 14:23)
  5. Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
  6. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:17)
  7. Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And thus I direct in all the churches. (1 Corinthians 7:17)

The company of believers in every place and nation:

  1. As to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. (Philippians 3:6)
  2. In order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly [places.] (Ephesians 3:10)
  3. To Him [be] the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:21)
  4. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:22)
  5. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives [ought to be] to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; (Ephesians 5:24-25)
  6. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. (Colossians 1:24)

The church is not merely a human institution: of God, of Christ

  1. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:9)
  2. For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; (Galatians 1:13)
  3. But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:16)
  4. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God, and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. (1 Corinthians 11:22)
  5. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they [did] from the Jews, (1 Thessalonians 2:14)
  6. Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. (2 Thessalonians 1:4)
  7. And I was [still] unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; (Galatians 1:22)

The Church of God at Corinth:

  1. To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their [Lord] and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)
  2. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy [our] brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: (2 Corinthians 1:1)
  3. Corinthian disunity and factions: “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:12)
  4. Paul’s experience of the Roman Empire – all colonies were little bits of Rome throughout the world.

Ekklesia has a Jewish background:

  1. The Day of Assembly when they received the 10 Commandments
    1. “And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God; and on them [were] all the words which the LORD had spoken with you at the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. (Deuteronomy 9:10)
    2. “This is according to all that you asked of the LORD your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ (Deuteronomy 18:16)
  2. The assembly of the congregation of Israel
    1. Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete. (Deuteronomy 31:30)
    2. And the chiefs of all the people, [even] of all the tribes of Israel, took their stand in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 foot soldiers who drew the sword. (Judges 20:2)
    3. And that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47)
    4. Then the king faced about and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing. (1 Kings 8:14)
    5. I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee. (Psalms 22:22)

Ekklesia has a Greek background:

  1. The ruling body was called ekklesia – consisting of every person who had not lost his right as a citizen.
  2. The Christian would naturally think of ekklesia as becoming citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

The church never was understood as a building.

Titles for members of the church:

  1. Saintshagios is used almost 40 times, translated as holy, or different, set apart from ordinary purposes, yet not a withdrawal from the world.
    1. To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called [as] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
    2. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. (Romans 15:26)
    3. Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy [our] brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia. (2 Corinthians 1:1)
  2. Saints In Christ
    1. Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: (Philippians 1:1)
    2. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. (Philippians 4:21)
    3. To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ [who are] at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Colossians 1:2)
  3. The brethren – in the family of God
    1. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. (Romans 16:14)
    2. And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:12)
    3. All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (1 Corinthians 16:20)
    4. And when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia, they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so. (2 Corinthians 11:9)
    5. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 6:23)
    6. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house. (Colossians 4:15)
    7. Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. (1 Thessalonians 5:26)
  4. The believers
    1. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, (Romans 4:11)
    2. So that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:7)

The church as a body: to stress the unity:

  1. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5)
  2. For even as the body is one and [yet] has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not [a part] of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less [a part] of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not [a part] of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less [a part] of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those [members] of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly [members come to] have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly [members] have no need [of it.] But God has [so] composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that [member] which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but [that] the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if [one] member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
  3. [There is] one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; (Ephesians 4:4)
  4. Which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:23)
  5. For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:12)
  6. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. (Colossians 1:18)
  7. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. (Colossians 1:24)
  8. Metaphysical body – The church is an extension of the incarnation
  9. A functional body – Jesus’ work must go on and we are the ones to do it

Christ is head of the body:

  1. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, (Ephesians 1:22)
  2. But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ, (Ephesians 4:15)
  3. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body. (Ephesians 5:23)
  4. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. (Colossians 1:18)
  5. And not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. (Colossians 2:19)

The distinction between Christ and the church: the body is the agent of the head, Christ is dependent on the church. A distinction between the work of Christ and the task of Christ. The church is the way the task of Christ is carried out.

  1. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body. (Ephesians 5:23)
  2. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives [ought to be] to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:24)
  3. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. (Colossians 1:24)

The bride of Christ:

  1. Wives, [be subject] to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself [being] the Savior of the body. (Ephesians 5”22-23)
  2. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; (Ephesians 5:25)
  3. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you [as] a pure virgin. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

Roots in the OT

  1. “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. (Isaiah 54:5)
  2. “Surely, as a woman treacherously departs from her lover, So you have dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 3:20)
  3. Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land and they play the harlot with their gods, and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invite you to eat of his sacrifice; 16 and you take some of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods, and cause your sons [also] to play the harlot with their gods. (Exodus 34:15-16)
  4. And the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. (Deuteronomy 31:16)
  5. For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. (Psalms 73:27)
  6. Do not rejoice, O Israel, with exultation like the nations! For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved [harlots’] earnings on every threshing floor. (Hosea 9:1)

A jealous God

  1. ‘They have made Me jealous with [what] is not God; They have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with [those who] are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation, (Deuteronomy 32:21)
  2. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, (Exodus 20:5)

Christians are members of the family of God: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” (Ephesians 2:19)

The church as a building erected by God:

  1. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:9)
  2. In whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; (Ephesians 2:21)

To edify and build up the church

  1. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but [even] more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. (1 Corinthians 14:3-5)
  2. So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual [gifts,] seek to abound for the edification of the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12)
  3. All this time you have been thinking that we are defending ourselves to you. [Actually,] it is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ; and all for your upbuilding, beloved. (2 Corinthians 12:19)
  4. For this reason I am writing these things while absent, in order that when present I may not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me, for building up and not for tearing down. (2 Corinthians 13:10)
  5. For even if I should boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I shall not be put to shame, (2 Corinthians 10:8)
  6. Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  7. So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:19)
  8. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. (Romans 15:2)
  9. For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; (Ephesians 4:12)
  10. From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:16)
  11. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment,] that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Other building metaphors:

  1. Christ is the foundation of the church: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11)
  2. Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church: “Having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner [stone].” (Ephesians 2:20)

The church as a field: becoming fertile in good things. “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.