Autonomy? No way! Glorious co-operation between the ICOC churches.

Submitted by JustinR on Wed, 2018-08-22 03:12

1Co 12:12-14(MSG)  You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts--limbs, organs, cells--but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body. It's exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.)

Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain--his Spirit--where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves--labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free--are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. (Emphasis mine)


This is a famous passage many Christians are familiar with, describing how the church (the body of Christ) functions just like a physical body. Though there are many different parts; limbs, organs, cells, they function in harmony for the good of the whole body. The co-operation of our body parts really is a glorious thing. Without it we would die! In fact cancer is a disease where certain cells in the body stop co-operating and start acting selfishly. They encourage other cells to do the same and very soon a tumour is formed. If that tumour is allowed to grow big enough it can kill the whole body.  

(Cancer cells multiplying)  


The church functions in the same way. In the “old life” we differentiated ourselves and identified ourselves by certain labels; “Jew”, “Greek”, “black”, “white”, “rich”, “poor”, “in”, “out” and all manner of micro-distinctions.

The bible tells us, those labels are no longer useful, instead we are now all simply “members of Christ’s body”. Paradoxically this makes us more significant than when we acted independently. Our co-operation brings glory to God and Christ as our head and King. Different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together is a working of God’s Spirit.

I have been able to witness this happening in a number of ways in current times.

In Southern Africa, our largest church, after the departure of Oneychi and Deysi Oguagha to New York, was left without a lead evangelist. Possible candidates were discussed at an Africa wide discipleship group held in Abidjan. The decision was made to ask my wife and I to move from Cape Town to take up that position. Initially we were very reluctant, my dad and stepmom (who are both disciples) had just moved to the Cape and lived a few streets away (built in baby sitters!). My wife’s parents had moved from the Canary Islands to live a few suburbs away and my wife’s sister (who was on the mission team to Madrid, Spain) and brother had also moved to Cape Town. On top of that, the church was thriving and had being growing for six straight years, even through the worldwide turmoil of 2003. Not mentioning that Cape Town is possibly the most beautiful city in the world!


Both congregations were asked to pray about these matters and seek God’s will. It became increasingly clear to everyone that this was the way the Spirit of God was leading, so my wife and I, remembering the decision we made at baptism, "to give up everything and go anywhere for the cause of Christ” packed our bags and moved with our two kids to Johannesburg. No command and control was involved, no central authority, just co-operation with the Spirit of God. One body, one family, working together for the purposes of God. 


Another example of this has been in helping out with financial needs in the body. Southern Africa Missions oversees and funds the evangelization of 12 countries in Southern Africa. In late 2007, one of the USA support churches came up short in their mission’s contribution and predicted even less for the following year. This, as you can imagine, put severe financial stress on the Southern Africa churches, but just as the bible describes in:


 1Co 12:26  ... If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing.   (MSG)        


Other parts of the body rallied to help in glorious co-operation. The Columbia church in South Carolina upped their normal missions contribution by $20 000 to help, the San Antonio church in Texas chipped in $10 000. Other churches volunteered to help if there was further shortfall. 

This is true in the US too. A church planting is being planned for Clemson, South Carolina. The Athens church in Georgia is supplying the lead couple, the Columbia, Greenville, Charleston, Savannah and other churches are supplying funding for this co-operative effort. No command and control, just parts of the body working just like Jesus envisioned they would. No autonomy, just brotherhood, partnership, and glorious co-operation. 


The stories go on and on... In the Caribbean, Damian and Karlene Jean-Baptiste are moving to Barbados to strengthen the churches and plant new congregations in the Southern and Eastern Caribbean. The New York City International church of Christ is providing the largest share of the support but other parts of the body are sharing in this work. The AthensSavannah and Columbia churches are pulling together to provide the other half of the support needed. How wonderful is that?


I can’t help feeling Jesus must feel a deep sense of pride when the members of his body act in such wonderful harmony and co-operation. 


Autonomy? No way! Just glorious co-operation in the body of Christ.



Justin Renton for IcocHotNews