Tag Archives: body of christ

The role of community in becoming incarnational (a series of staff reflections)

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27

The other image Paul uses is the Church as the body of Christ. The phrase has lost some of its significance due to its familiarity. But Paul was very intentional about using this phrase. The body of Paul is a very real body, present in this world. When the body of Paul dies it is no more. To speak of the body of Paul being manifested through another person or a group of people is not something that we think of. The body of Christ was also a very real presence in the world. As 1 John states, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard. (1:1-3)” When Christ died, we should normally think that his body is no more. Though he was raised, he then ascended and so we think he is not physically present. Not according to Paul and the writers of the New Testament! For them, we are that body, a very real and physical manifestation of Jesus in the world, no less real than the actual physical body of Christ Himself.

In this way, the Church is the incarnation of Christ, God who becomes flesh. God became flesh through the physical body of Christ. Now God becomes flesh through the people who are followers of Christ. We are God dwelling among us! This in itself is an amazing demonstration of the grace of God.

This reality is important to the Church’s manifestation of the incarnation, its participation in the incarnation. We cannot negate this reality. We are indeed his body. He is miraculously manifesting Himself to the world through us, the Church. I don’t think we can speak of one ministry as being incarnational and another not. The Church can’t be more incarnational, because the reality of the Church’s existence is because it is incarnational. Saying a Church is not incarnational is probably like saying I do not have skin. I could not exist without skin and I would not be without skin. There is no manifestation of Paul in the world without skin. In the same way, there is no Church without the present incarnation of God. This is a manifestation of the grace of God that we can be the physical BODY of Christ.

I am not sure that it is correct to think of the incarnation as a practice of ministry. I think it may be a misunderstanding of the reality of our existence at all. The Church exists because of the present incarnation of God. We cannot practice incarnation because we are incarnation.

The community of Good Works is this body of Christ, this temple of the Holy Spirit, this incarnation of God made flesh. By His grace this is the reality of who we are. Our very presence in the surrounding community is a manifestation of God. It sounds and feels arrogant to say this, but to say otherwise is to deny the reality. Each of the initiatives of Good Works is a manifestation of God in this community.

But the Church has a part in this. God’s part is the reality of His incarnational presence in the world through these people called the Church. As followers of Christ we also have a part to play to manifest the incarnation clearly. We can obscure the incarnation, putting a veil over the incarnational presence of God and so hide it from the world.

The most significant thing Jesus did to manifest the incarnational presence of God was to form relationships with the people he came in contact with. This is at the heart of what it means to manifest the incarnational presence of God in its present form – the Church. We must evaluate all that we do through the quality and character of the relationships being formed between the Church and the world in which the church has its existence.

— Paul Ricahrd

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Filed under Food for thought, Wrestling with issues of perspective

the Body of Christ (a series of staff reflections)

Many minds and hearts from different backgrounds coming together to effect change as one body. The following series is this body, the Good Works body, searching for the answer to “What does it mean to be the Body for the world, in the world and for the glory of God?” We all have different perspectives, different questions to be answered in this layered question. Our hope is that we may be able to start a dialog, not just within this body, but with you.

What does it mean to be the body of Christ, in the world, for the world, for the glory of God?


Sunday morning: Again I am faced with the question of church. Where should I go? I sigh, discomfort twisting amidst threads of thought. It has been more than two years since I moved to Athens. Why haven’t I found a church? Is there something wrong with me, or my attitude? I have tried. But, somehow I haven’t been able to connect. I am twenty-four and can’t seem to rattle myself into sitting through another church service.

Tuesday morning: I am with my friends and coworkers. “Good mornings” and coffee mugs crowd the dining room. The residents of the shelter have headed out for the day, and we meet where they ate breakfast. Someone closes the door against the incessant ringing of the phone, thank goodness. Staff members answer the phone all day—talking with many people—those seeking shelter or help with bills, eager donors, and each other as we maintain the daily operations of this organization. But now, it is time to quiet ourselves for prayer, song, scripture sharing…story-telling, collage-making, walking… hearing testimonies, honest fears and encouragement.  In my week of work, this is a sustaining hour.

My parents are Mennonite missionaries, yet I didn’t grow up going to church. When people ask me about my church background, I am usually tempted to say that I grew up in the “Isaan rice-farmers’ house church” denomination. My sisters and I spent dusty Sundays visiting newly formed groups of Thai believers. For me, this meant bumpy rides out to various villages, politely sitting on the floor for many hours and straining to interact in my limited language abilities. The meetings and the meals that followed were simple, and sometimes “poor.”  Yet, these villagers were experiencing the power of God in profound ways—dreams, physical healing, and restored relationships. I didn’t always understand or appreciate what was going on around me at the time, but looking back I glimpse something mysteriously real, and beautiful.

These days, I spend my Sunday mornings exploring the village of Chauncey. A run-down town in Southeast Ohio, it is far from Asia. I find myself surprisingly energized to be there: meeting people from the Chauncey Church of God, Chauncey Faith Chapel and Chauncey Christian Church. I am a curious visitor, and I feel as though these sincere churchgoers have a hard time understanding me.  I haven’t yet found words to explain my hopes and intentions to them, because my purpose feels somewhat “other.” Some day soon, I hope to live in this used-to-be coal mining community and take part in its culture. I hope for the movement of God in which I, along with others, can link arms with the local believers to continue to express Christ through our joined body.

These are a few of the angles from which I approach the question of what it means to be the Church. I do not intend to answer exhaustively, but rather to speak about several aspects that seem most significant to me.

— Dawn Tobin

(To read the rest of Dawn’s article about the Church, visit www.good-works.net, click on “Who We Are” and go to Dawn’s bio page. The article is titled The Body of Christ.)

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Filed under Food for thought