'Belonging to the Body of Christ'
- an extract from 'My Journey with LEPs' by John Bradley
One of the precious fruits of charismatic renewal was a rediscovery of the giftedness of each and every Christian, not just the ordained or other recognised leaders. We should not have forgotten that ‘each one of us has received a grace-gift according to the measure of the giving of Christ’. There are no ungifted Christians, only those who have not yet discovered their gifts. When the Methodist Church gave a general welcome to the charismatic movement, I recalled some more lines of Charles Wesley: ‘The gift which He on one bestows we all delight to prove; the grace through every vessel flows in streams of purest love ’. That bestowing and flowing most generally occurs in the gathering of the local congregation and where that congregation is an ecumenical partnership there will be an even greater diversity of gifts which are brought into unity.
Paul’s use of the analogy of the members of the Church being like the organs of a human body, all different and yet working together to make for healthy growth is to emphasise unity in diversity. Because there is a diversity of gifts there is a wealthy diversity of ministry. As a Methodist minister in pastoral charge of many congregations, some quite small, I always tried to resist the pressure to find people willing to do jobs. Instead I tried to encourage discernment of each one’s unique gifts and then sought to find the right ministries in which they could exercise them. In practice, I found that it was often others who recognised a person’s gifts rather than the person themselves.
Pressing Paul’s body language a little further, I want to suggest that the body of Christ also needs connective tissue which joins the diverse members together. Anyone who has sprained an ankle or wrist knows how important it is that bones and muscles, each with their different roles, are securely bound together. Paul calls this the ‘bonds of peace’ which make fast the unity which the Spirit gives. This is not the peace which the world gives such as Acts of Uniformity which order people to worship in a particular place or pay a fine. Neither is it the peace of indifference when nobody really cares much anyway nor the peace of the open market where various providers compete for their market share. The peace which Jesus gives is shalom of right relationships when we love one another as he loves us. All congregations are called to be local bodies of transforming love but LEPs embrace the greater challenge of overcoming those differences which once bitterly divided our Churches.
'My Journey with LEPs' - link to full text by John Bradley - online and in Word / PDF