I did a sermon series in August 2018 on Ephesians called Bodybuilding.
It was a series about how we exist as “church.” Over the next couple of weeks, I will detail some of the more important points from that series. My hope is that they can help you navigate what it means to be a community in an increasingly fractured culture.
Ephesians was written by a follower of the apostle Paul.
Paul and those who followed him were extremely concerned with how Christians lived, worked, and grew in the faith with each other. One of Paul’s main ways of describing the church was as the Body of Christ.
If we want to be healthy, whether is it the church or our physicality, then we must build up our bodies. This true on an individual level. This is true on a group level. Here are four things to consider as we think about bodybuilding.
Bodybuilders don’t workout alone.
There are some things they can do alone, but even the best ones seek help from the bodybuilding community. No one makes it alone in bodybuilding. Trainers. Motivators, nutritionists, spotters, doctors, routine makers, coaches. All of these people play a part in making the best bodybuilders. “There is no I in team” the saying goes. Stop acting like you did this without climbing on the shoulders of other people. It’s not until you realize that nothing happens alone that you will realize your full potential. Full potential only happens when you work WITH your team instead of apart from it. The same is true when we talk about building up the Body of Christ.
Know who is on your team.
You can’t function as a team unless you know who is on the team. Seems straightforward but so many church folk have no idea who is on the team. Ephesians points out a few. The “Trainers/Motivators” are people called emissaries (apostles), prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Most churches have those people sitting right in the seats. Which one are you? What is your giftedness? Do you know? If you’re not one of those people, then you are what I will call a “Workout Partner.” Your role is vital to getting anything done for the church. You are often the hand and feet of ministry. Without you, nothing happens. Period.
Know your goal.
Why bother working out at all? Some of the reasons are to get stronger, healthier, better looking. Or, if you’re like me, to stave off the copious amounts of cookies, pie, and chicken wings you ingest.
Why bother building the Body of Christ? If we are going to exhibit God’s love outside of the church, then we need to know ways of putting that love into practice in order to maintain Christ’s unity inside the church. More simply, if we are going to love other people, we need to know how to love each other first.
The Body of Christ is more than a group of worshippers. Worshippers are called to adore. Bodies are made to move. We must exercise our love for one another by working together in acts of service.
If your weight bench is a clothes rack, then you’re not trying to become stronger. If we’re not putting in the work of the faith, then we’re not meeting the goals of the faith: maturity in Christ, unity in faith, and knowing more of the Son.
Some believe that the point of Christianity is to get to heaven. But that’s not the point. We’re not trying to populate heaven, we’re trying to populate the earth with God’s people.
Make your team as strong as it can be.
Since building the Body is a team sport, I want us to be intentional with each other when we interact.
- Be Humble: Let someone else’s need go before your own.
- Be Gentle: Even though we would never admit it in our aggressive culture, gentleness brings peace. Verbal and physical violence may cause another to submit to your will, but gentleness causes you and others to submit to the will of Christ. So, talk softly. Touch softly. A scream and a slap might cause a person to do what you want, but it will also drive them away. A whisper and a caress will also get you what you want and it will cause others to lean in closer.
- Be Patient: Patience is waiting quietly. A patient person gives others plenty of time, even when it seems long.
- Bear Each Other in Love: This is my favorite one because it implies disagreement. You don’t have to “bear with” someone that you agree with. You just agree with them. You have to bear with someone with whom you disagree. Another way to put this might be to say to “tolerate and deal with each other.” But the kicker here is that we are called to “bear with each other in love.” That means when we disagree, even extremely, we all need to just chill out a little bit. Calm down, don’t be in a fuss or in a hurry to get your own way. Be kind to each other.
You might think a person who loves like that is weak, but you’d be wrong. Jesus exhibited every single one of these to perfection and I don’t think any of us think he was weak. And if we are going to grow in maturity as his disciples and know more of him, then we need to start behaving toward others the way he did.
Being humble, gentle, patient, and kind in face of disagreement is what makes of unified in our faith in Jesus. We are called to unity not uniformity. Unity in Christ is all of us following Jesus and doing everything we do in accordance with his way. Uniformity would be all of us looking and acting the same way while we do it. We are all called to follow in Christ’s footsteps, but no one ever said it had to be a single file line.
The bottom line is this: when you love the Body of Christ, you will work to build the Body of Christ.