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From his column A Minute with Don

minute-with-don-09-13-1There are phrases which, when we encounter them, either spoken or in print, create response patterns. A letter from a governmental entity stating, “We regret to inform you…” provokes feelings of dread. A call from a relative beginning with the question, “Are you sitting down?” ignites apprehension. The question from a teenager, “Which do you want first—the good news or the bad news?” causes the hair to rise on our neck, knowing the next thing we hear will hardly be good. By now, you’re no doubt thinking of similar phrases that have prefaced unforgettable moments in your life.

As a parent with young children, I remember phrases that could make or break Christmas. The first was “Batteries not included.” The more dreaded was “Some assembly required.” The batteries issue was easily solved by forward planning; however, the assembly problem often robbed me of any thoughts of Peace on Earth I might have harbored, and certainly didn’t create goodwill toward those who had written the instructions. Missing parts were always a possibility, although leftover screws and whatnots created their own special anxiety. I’ll never forget the year we bought the trampoline with the warning label: “Failure to follow assembly instructions can result in serious injury or death.” That took the words regarding assembly to a whole new level.

Recently, my pastor preached a sermon on the roles and responsibilities of the Body of Christ. And having just come from a General Assembly and looking ahead to a district assembly, I was thinking about the subjects of body parts and assembly. I know it might be a stretch to put these together, but I’ve found it intriguing.

Throughout the New Testament, when we read the writings of Paul about the nature of the Church, there is the clear message that it is an organic, interdependent body. We understand the Church exists for the purpose of making Christlike disciples, but I’m not sure we’ve totally grasped that to fulfill this mission, there is “some assembly required.” The parts must be assembled in such a way as to function interdependently for the fulfillment of a singular purpose.

That is what makes Paul’s language so interesting when, in the second chapter of Colossians, he uses the image of the Church as being “knit together.” I admit I’m not a knitter, but I’ve watched my daughter knit and my wife crochet. It is an intricate process. The end result is something functional and flexible, but it takes time and concerted effort to create. Could that be what Paul was telling us? Was he saying we need to invest time and energy to become a functional, flexible body intent on the great purpose of disciple-making?

This has had me thinking about the whole idea of “assemblies.” I’m glad the Church of the Nazarene chose to call our gatherings assemblies. There is, of course, biblical language which references a great general assembly and the Hebrews instruction to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. But in spite of all else that happens at our denominational meetings, a central focus has always been to find ways to work better together to accomplish our mission. We assemble to find better ways to function as a Body for the purposes of the Gospel.

I’ve thought about that as I’ve read comments about how to make assemblies more efficient and less expensive. There seems to be an assumption that if money can be saved, the result is automatically good stewardship. If being “knit together” only happens in local congregations, then maybe there is some validity to this assumption. Of course, this could be taken a step further to assume that if real knitting occurs only in small groups, we can then dispense with general gatherings of the local congregation. At what point do we decide unity and connection are optional?

Whether we like it or not, when it comes to building up the Body of Christ, there always will be “some assembly required.” And the call to be a connected Body with a singular purpose seems to have more biblical support than the desire to save time and money. I understand the need to cut overhead, but I also recognize the importance of knowing the difference between overhead and invested assets. Confusing these can create problems, and when it comes to assembling the Church, no parts should be left over!

Finally, we can’t talk about assembling something without addressing the subject of power—the “batteries not included” factor. I think when Jesus instructed His followers to assemble themselves and wait for His Spirit, He was reminding us that simply to come together isn’t enough. Great organization, warm like-mindedness with each other, team spirit and catchy slogans won’t do what is needed. The assembled body needs power. Fortunately, we’ve been promised all the power necessary—and, better still—it is His, not ours.

I can remember Christmas-day evenings when the fun came to a halt because the batteries had died. The stores were closed, so we just had to wait for replacements until the next day. We didn’t take the toys apart and start over, we simply got fresh power. And so it is with the Church. Just because we run a little low on power doesn’t mean we have to start from scratch. Fresh power is its own solution, and there are no acceptable substitutes.

Assembling ourselves—being knit together—takes time. Sometimes it isn’t efficient, but if we are to accomplish our singular purpose, it is absolutely necessary. And once assembled and properly powered, it is always incredible to see how the Church can serve God.

Don Walter is director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.

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