Blog - Supporting Believers
Seeing Past the WallsWednesday, July 20, 2011
We speak of "going to church.” But if you "go to work” the next day, are you still in church? The New Testament calls the church the body of Christ. Does a bodily part—an elbow, an ankle—slip into the body one day and out of it the next? The church is also the family of God. When you leave the relatives after a reunion, are you no longer part of the family? Phrases such as "go to church” can make it difficult for us to see the church in the office or shop on workdays.
Our church divisions—advertised in the Yellow Pages—make seeing the church in the workplace even harder. Unless we’re careful, those partitions can isolate us like "cube farms,” those offices divided by half-high walls. If you’re a - - - ist and I’m a - - - an, or a - - - al, we may not search each other out and discover that we are members of the same body. We might work side by side for years with little or no sense of bond with or responsibility to each other as siblings in the family of God.
The New Testament offers us some more accurate words in speaking of the church. Sometimes the church gathers (Acts 14:27) and at other times it scatters (Acts 8:1, 4). In either case, the church remains the church—and the members of the body stay within it.
When Jesus looked around Asia at the first-century churches there, he did not see - - - ists, - - - ans, or - - - als. Instead he saw one church in Ephesus, one in Smyrna, one in Thyatira, one in Pergamum, and so on. Had you been a believer in one of those cities, the name of your church would simply have been the name of your community.
Imagine you had lived in Pergamum (located near what is now the city of Bergama in modern Turkey). After Egypt stopped exporting papyrus, Pergamum became well known for manufacturing parchment, made from animal skins. Let your imagination roam a bit. Suppose you work for the Pergamum Parchment Producers. (You may be a slave, since—by some estimates—40,000 of them lived in Pergamum.)
Whether slave or free, let’s say you discover that three of your fellow parchment processors are Christ-followers. Once you recognize your kinship in Christ you all know instantly that you are part of the same scattered church—regardless of where or when you may gather with other believers. And as members of the same body, each of you also knows that you are to serve one another in love.
No, you can’t return to Pergamum. But you can rise above the "cube farm” mentality and look past the walls. Who else among your fellow workers, clients, vendors, customers, patients, or students may belong to Jesus? Perhaps they’re shaky in their faith, poorly taught, or come from church traditions quite different from yours. But you can take a first step by asking God to open your eyes to who they are. After that, many doors will open for mutual encouragement and one-anothering in the scattered church right there in your workplace.