Pew Ponderings: Placing Ourselves Deeply

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
~Ephesians 4:16 

Ephesians 4 is just one of those super-meaty chapters that you could spend months delving into and still have more depths to plumb.  It covers topics such as our calling in Christ, heart attitudes, unity in the body, salvation and grace, the importance of sound doctrine, putting off sin and being made a new creature, wholesome talk, grieving the Holy Spirit, and our behavior toward one another.

Whew!  Much to chew on there!

Verse 16 compares the church to the body, and says that just as the body is connected by "every supporting ligament", so the body of Christ is joined together.  The body grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.  What a picture!

Spiritual growth doesn't happen in a vacuum.  I've been doing research lately on physical fitness and weight training. One of the important things to remember when weight training is to work the body evenly.  If you work certain parts of the body and not others, you end up with all kinds of problems!  Not every member of a church body is going to grow at exactly the same pace, but ideally, we should all be growing together.
Last Sunday I introduced a new Sunday series, Pew Ponderings, as well as the book on which I'll be basing the next few posts, Love Me With Tough Love, by Anne Ortlund. Anne opens chapter one by explaining the three priorities her husband led their church to adopt:

1. to put God first, individually and as a church,
2. to put each other in God's family second in priority, and 
3. to put the needy world third.

(We'll look at those priorities themselves in more depth in a later post.)
She shares some of the "together" memories from their church body over the years, living by these priorities, and then asks,

Have you got a headful of "together" memories? Christians all around you are waiting for your input, lonely for your love, hungry for what you know about Christ that they don't yet know.

I am blessed to have a headful of those memories.  I could do a whole post (or a whole series of posts!) on those memories. I started to add a few here, and then realized I couldn't begin to limit it to just a few. Maybe someday!

Next Anne shares a list of 13 ways the New Testament tells us to communicate with each other as Christian believers.  I'd love to do a printable of these to keep close by always! They'd make a great Bible Study. Or maybe a blog series someday. :)   Here's the list:

1. Suffering together: 1 Corinthians 12:26
2. Rejoicing together: Romans 12:15
3. Carrying each others' burdens: Galatians 6:2
4. Restoring each other: Galatians 6:1
5. Praying for one another: Romans 15:30
6. Teaching and admonishing one another: Colossians 3:16
7. Refreshing one another: Romans 15:32
8. Encouraging one another: Romans 1:12
9. Forgiving one another: Ephesians 4:32
10. Confessing to one another: James 5:16
11. Being truthful with one another: Ephesians 4:25
12. Spurring one another on toward good deeds: Hebrews 10:24
13. Giving to one another: Philippians 4:14-15

As you read this list, do faces and memories pop into your mind?  Some bring back more "together" memories than others for me, but all bring back at least a few.  They are also quite convicting to me!  Am I communicating in each of these ways with those around me: my family, my friends, my church family? Not just the ones that come more easily to me, but all of them? 

Anne wrote this at the bottom of her list:

"Have I placed myself so deeply within a living, functioning local body that I myself am functioning in all these ways, and so living as a well-rounded, healthy, contributing member of the body of Christ?" 

Let's look at that for just a minute.

1.Have I placed myself deeply within a living, functioning local body? There's a lot to consider right there!  First, am I in a local body?  Not watching services online, not a group meeting together watching some far-away preacher by satellite, but a local body with an onsite preacher who preaches the truth of the word and a church family who holds each other accountable and ministers to each others' needs.

Second, and going right along with the first, is it a living, functional body?  Does the pastor truly preach the truth of the Word? Is he a true under-shepherd of the flock? Does the body truly function as a body, worshiping together, fellowshipping together, praying for one another, and ministering to one another's needs? More on those topics later, but this part's important!

Third, have I placed myself deeply within that body?  This is more than just sporadic attendance or even showing up for worship on Sunday morning.  This is digging deep, loving hard, and being transparent.

2. Am I myself functioning in all these ways, and so living as a well-rounded, healthy, contributing member of the Body of Christ? 

We need to be in a living, functioning (not perfect!!) local body, and we need to be assessing constantly if we are functioning in these 13 ways within that body.  It's easy for us to see where others may not be functioning in those ways toward us, but a bit harder sometimes to assess how we are (or aren't!) functioning in those ways toward others. (Very often, when we are living those things out toward others, we'll see more and more of others living them out toward us!)  I have a long way to go in many of those areas.

As Anne says, "You have to 'place yourself deeply' within a living, functioning local body to begin to give and take at deep levels."

Anne talks about making sure you are in a living, functional body to begin with, and then adds,

"On the other hand, don't be too proud or too shy or too preoccupied to receive life when it's there! Or perhaps it's truly there, but undisclosed.  Many church people are like that alabaster vase of perfume in Mark 14:3. They have the true  Gospel of Christ in their hearts; they're full of potential; but they're tight and closed up, not knowing how to love each other.  

We need to learn to love!" 
I'm actually only halfway through the first chapter, but that's a lot to ponder (and hopefully act on!) for one post.  We need to learn to love.  We need to learn to minister to others, and we need to learn to allow others to minister to us.  Both can be hard at times! We need to learn to be discipled, and to disciple others.  

More on all those topics in posts to come! In the meantime, what are your thoughts on today's post?  Are you in a living, functioning local body?  If not, do you need help finding one?  If so, have you "placed yourself deeply"?  Do you have "together" memories? Are you functioning in those 13 ways within the body? 

I'd love to hear about any or all of those things either in the comments below or on Facebook, or via the contact box in the sidebar.  

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