The worker is to the church like a joint is to the body

Thinking back upon my former church life experience, I have to admit we had our fair share of struggles and frustrations. So much of our experience was like being stuck in traffic, never quite able to get out of second gear. For one reason or another it was just difficult to gain the critical mass we needed for things to really take off. Nevertheless, there were some moments of glory and seasons of real progress, one of which I would like to consider for this post. Probably the greatest impetus forward we ever received was when we came into contact with a brother who became a kind of “apostle” to us from the Lord.

From the beginning of our assembly when it was only four of us coming together we had sought outside help, being convinced from scripture and the advice of others that this is vital to the health of any church. Problem was we were never able to get anyone in for a visit. We chalked this up to the fact that we were a small group living in the middle of nowhere. Still we plodded on. Eventually we came into contact with some churches in other parts of our state who benefited from the ministry of a certain brother (among others) who gives his life to the work of travelling and building up the saints. So one Sunday we drove to a meeting in a city two hours north of us to meet this man. We hit it off and talked about the possibility of his visiting our fledgling little group.

He did come to visit us, and then again, and again, and again over the course of the next five or six months. These visits were an incredible strength to our gathering. I learned a lot during this time just by observing about the nature and function of the apostolic gift (or itinerant worker, or church planter, or whatever you might call it). In Ephesians 4:16 Paul refers to this in context of the Body’s overall function. Here he likens the gifted members whom God gives for the saints’ perfecting to “joints” which connect and hold the members of the Body together. It’s a very subtle yet remarkable illustration, one which I got to observe very keenly in the brief span of time we were receiving visits from this brother.

During his visits we would block off the entire day for fellowship. Anyone who was free could come and go in our home throughout the day as they pleased. We ate together and had coffee. We sang songs and laughed a lot. In the evening we would sometimes have an informal meeting with a time of ministry; other times the fellowship was so fluid we didn’t even find it necessary to change things up in such a way. Through it all, we partook of Christ. The brother shared his experiences of the Lord and the church with us; he encouraged us and affirmed what spiritual reality he saw in our lives. He exhorted us to stay simple and remain free, and cautioned us against becoming sectarian or thinking ourselves to be any different or more special than anyone else. He modeled practical ways to fellowship with the Lord and always seemed careful never to go beyond that which he felt was to our particular benefit at the time.    

What’s more, I noticed he had a way of forming connections between believers. Not just locally but between churches and saints in different localities, too. There was something about his ministry that joined people together. I saw this to be in line with what Paul was referring to in Ephesians when he wrote about the apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds who act as joints connecting one part of the Body to another. It really is very practical.

Perhaps this hardly needs to be pointed out, but what I saw here stands in stark contrast to what is common in most churches throughout Christendom today. More often than not those who are set up to be leaders build walls between believers rather than encourage them to come together. Churches are formed along this or that party line with very little concern given to other brothers and sisters who are doing their own thing maybe just a couple blocks down the street. Suffice it to say that real ministry joins saints together in their locality, it does not drive a wedge of doctrine or any other thing between them.

At any rate, I feel especially blessed to have been able enjoy such a ministry, if only for a season. In our case it was perhaps too little too late in the way of establishing a more lasting testimony in my city, but for better or worse it was what it was and now it is what it is. I’m content to walk away from the experience knowing I gained more of Christ.

For more on the subject, check out this post from April of last year and this one from May. They were written while we were actually in the thick of things.

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About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

10 responses to “The worker is to the church like a joint is to the body

  • naturalchurch

    Loved your post. And I cannot agree more. Our biggest problem is that we do no appreciate the way that God has composed the body. We need one another. It is as simple as that. And I believe that is what the Spirit is saying to the churches in our time. We have congregated ourselves around those who are likeminded, and in the process we have collections of eyes functioning here, ears over there, feet way over there and so on.Whilst each group has a valid emphasis, we forget that our particular view is but part of larger whole and dependent on that whole.

    • Josh

      You’re absolutely right. There is a widespread lack of appreciation for the Body as Paul saw it, which is evidenced by the way we look down on one another’s differences and fail to come together as one.

  • Hannah

    This post filled in some more parts of a picture regarding the apostolic that I am starting to see. I really appreciate you taking the time to write it Josh.

  • Alan Knox

    Josh,

    Another great post. Of course, in Ephesians 4:16, Paul is saying that every believers is like a joint or ligament is to the body. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we grow to a point that we are functioned in that way? But, you’re right, this worker was like that also, and he provided a great model for you.

    -Alan

    • Josh

      Thanks, Alan. I suppose my thought in this post was more towards a distinguishing between the members of the body with those joints and ligaments which connect them, but you are right in saying that overall it’s all the same. Unfortunately there are so many who fail to recognize their place and function as a member of Christ’s Body! Perhaps this explains the importance of the gifted ones, as their ministry is geared toward helping other members take their own place and thus fulfill the same calling. So that they themselves will do the work of the ministry.

  • Marshall

    Thanks be to God who brought all these things to your attention & memory, Josh. May you, and those who will be with you, have much opportunity to continue to practice the things exampled for you.

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