Helen Brough, Forge Scotland Director, shares her insight into how the body of Christ can recover the shape it was designed to be and move how it was intended.
There is an ever increasing need for the Body of Christ to be on the move – reclaiming and regaining the missional muscle memory that has been lost along the way in Christendom. The whole body of Christ is designed to move and live a fruitful life.
“But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it…… So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:7,11-13 (NIV)
As I lead Forge and see so many incredible men and women of God stepping into their pioneering call to make disciples and see new ecclesial communities flourish, I also see an increasing desire in the church that already is, to be on the move – recognising the opportunities but feeling unfit for the task ahead.
In my own life, I’m working on my physical fitness. I write this as one recovering the art of healthy movement from the place of being way too sedentary and unfit. Regaining that which I had in the past but lost along the way. It’s a long haul but I’m making progress (with the occasional “blip” as I go!)
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is the battle for consistency. It’s reasonably simple to have a burst of enthusiasm in the whole fitness lark. Enthusiasm fades, patience is lost and the busyness of life creeps in. For change to be sustainable we have to intentionally make room, change behaviours, be ready for it to take longer, and set off at a sustainable pace.
When it comes to movement, not all of us struggle with the default setting of being sedentary – quite the reverse – instead, some of us struggle to remain still, preferring to be active and constantly moving.
Perpetual movement and constant inertia can both be unhealthy states.
Overcoming the false dualism of movement and stability.
So, scaling this image up to the way the Christian community organises itself it is too easy for there to be a false dualism – between movement and stability – risk and safely – exercise and recovery – both as individuals and as the Body of Christ.
The language we (in the missional movement) can gravitate to is that of shepherds and teachers being sedentary, and apostles, prophets and evangelists being mobile. This I believe is a false dichotomy.
Rather, as the whole body, we need to regain healthy movement. Only with all five influences will we see maturity of the Body of Christ.
Shepherds and teachers bringing health and depth and core stability as we move and apostles, prophets and evangelists moving at a pace that is healthy and enables growth and multiplication of the whole. So what does this look like in practise?
As individuals, it’s only when we increase our movement and do more that we discover the parts of our physical bodies that require attention – whether poor core strength, lack of exercise tolerance, weak muscles or poorly set pacing and expectations!
I suggest that this is exactly the same for the body of Christ. Increasing healthy movement is often as uncomfortable as it is positive – whichever of the fivefold you bring. Increasing movement to escape inertia or decreasing pace to live sustainably are both challenging. So, what does it take to move well?
Facing the reality and possibilities with hope and faith!!!
- Seeing possibilities and having courage to go for them (leaning on Him for provision)
- Good core strength
- Balanced with limb strength and flexibility
- Good exercise tolerance
- Healthy recovery patterns
- Willingness to attend to injury “niggles” immediately
- Patience – it often takes longer than we would like or think!
I believe that God is restoring healthy movement as the norm to the Body of Christ – but this will take courage, patience, humility, faith and persistence – and the entirety of APEST[i] together for this to be seen. A key part of that is the language we use to affirm healthy movement and avoid the unhealthy dualistic ends of the spectrum that only honours part of the Body.
So – as individuals and communities of faith, which do you “err” towards – endless movement or inertia?
How is your core strength?
Where are you needing to develop flexibility?
What are the “niggles’ you need to attend to?
How’s your exercise tolerance?
How are your recovery patterns?
What’s the next step in developing overall fitness?
There’s an internal journey to attend to as we do this – more of that another time!
[i] We use term APEST quite frequently. For us its just a shorthand to describe the five types of people Jesus uses to shape His church from Ephesians 4:11
Forge Scotland is committed to helping churches and individuals discover their latent missional muscle memory. A big part of the spare time – year long Forge Pioneer training course is helping individual’s discover where they fit in Jesus’ body and how to move in a healthy way.