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Look, no hands!

BODY BUILDER

by Major Terry CamseyA few years ago, I heard of some fine young officers who left “the work” in Canada and started attending a church of another denomination. When asked the reason, they explained that they were simply “burned out” trying to keep so many required programs going.

It was not the first time that I had heard of this kind of thing happening but, more often, I find that currently active corps officers struggle with too few workers willing to help carry the burden. This is often left to an overworked few, while the rest of the congregation consists (as someone suggested) of “sitters and soakers”…people who attend and take what is offered, but give back little in return in terms of service.

This highlights the flip side of another Church Growth principle: Mobilized membership.

In William Booth’s day, it wasn’t just the leaders who were the workers. Theirs was no laid-back, “bless me if you can,” kind of religion. There was an urgency to the work. As we used to sing, every one has a part to play in the Great Salvation War! Booth’s goal was “red hot” soldiers. Nothing less was acceptable. An article in the Nonconformist (November 1868) put its finger on this, another key to the early success of the movement:

“The working men and women joining the
movement instantly became its most efficient
assistants, devoting all their spare time to the
labor—unpaid and too often unpraised—of
rescuing multitudes of their
fellow workers from the depths
of social degradation into which
they have too frequently become
plunged.”

There is, however, a much deeper reason for involving people in ministry than merely to keep programs or other activities going.

Several scriptures tell us that the church is the Body of Christ. The implications of this for all in the congregation are incredible. Think about it:

• We are (as both the church and as individuals in the church) to represent Christ to the community we serve. To act for Him and as Him. To continue His ministry until he returns.

• He is omnipresent in Spirit, but physically is only present through his church. (Sufficient rationale right there to plant new churches insuring that every community has a church presence. Add to that the reality that different churches attract different people so that, if an Army presence is lacking in the community of churches, some of the lost may never be won.)

• Christ is perfect. John McArthur Jr. has suggested each of the spiritual gifts was a characteristic of Jesus Christ when he was physically present on earth…that the church is to manifest His nature in the same way His fleshly body did…and that, naturally, the church (as His Body) will have those same attributes.

I Corinthians tells us that the church body is like the human body, with many “members” needing each other and acting in harmony, so that the Body can function effectively. Collectively we are the Body of Christ and I Corinthians 12:18 tells us that, “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as he pleased.”

The passage is addressing the local church at Corinth and (by inference) suggests that every church already has “each one” of the members it needs to function as Christ’s Body. It’s an awesome thought, since it doesn’t relate to having enough people to run the programs we feel are necessary. Rather, it promises us all the human resources we need to represent Christ and fulfill His ministry in the community in which He has placed us.

Now, here’s the rub! If a substantial number of “members of the Body” are not active…if, as in some corps, up to 50 percent or 60 percent of those “members” are inactive…what kind of representation of Christ can it offer to the community? Is it a whole, healthy, Body or something substantially less?

Remember the old poem starting, “He has no hands but our hands…” It’s as true today as ever it was. And it’s not just the Body of Christ that suffers when not functioning at 100 percent of its potential. Unused members can atrophy, too.

Mobilized membership.

There’s a lot more to that than meets the eye.


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