The term "Body of Christ" is often used to refer to the Church. There's good reason for that, since the phrase is used in the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:27, for example). I always thought of the word "body" according to this definition:
This makes sense, doesn't it? The verse I referenced above says, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." The body of Christ certainly is a group of individuals organized for some purpose. But there is another sense in which the Church operates as Christ's body:
- 5 : a group of persons or things: such as
b : a group of individuals organized for some purpose
a legislative body
the university's student body
2a : the organized physical substance of an animal or plant...For about thirty years Jesus physically walked the earth, but as He prepared to leave this world, he made it clear to his disciples that their mission was to carry on His mission. As Jesus' present-day disciples, we are the physical presence of Jesus in the world! For most students of the Bible this isn't really a new revelation. But if we really believed this and lived it out, it would be revolutionary!
Jesus' actions during the few short years of his public ministry included preaching and teaching, but also healing the sick, raising the dead, and advocating for the poor and oppressed. But these were not just random acts of kindness. They were accompanied by a call to reject and repent from sin, and to newness of life in Christ. Jesus was intentional about "seeking and saving the lost" (Luke 19:10). He demonstrated mercy and compassion, and broke bread with the despised and outcast. Yet he never failed to call people out of the bondage of sin and brokenness, and into His Kingdom.
So how does this relate to our excitement about church planting? If the Church is growing and truly acting as the Body of Christ, then we will naturally and organically see an increase in acts of love and compassion to the world around us. So it's not an either/or proposition; we don't need to choose church planting or compassion ministry. It's a both/and scenario! By focusing on the church—bringing people to Christ and then continuing to nurture them as disciples of Jesus—we will also see the Body of Christ responding to the needs in our communities, loving them as Christ loved the world.
My intent is not to downplay the need for compassion ministry. Rather, I want to affirm that it is important. Our desire would be for local believers to come to Jesus, and then to reach and serve the world around them according to their individual gifts and passions. The Church is God's chosen instrument for carrying on His work in the world until Jesus returns, and I'm excited to support the building up of the Body of Christ through the tool of missionary aviation.