A healthy body is a moving body.
I’ve seen this in my own life. When I’m sitting around a lot, watching TV, I feel crummy. But when I’m exercising regularly, which for me mostly means riding my bike, I have more energy, I feel better, I think better, and I’m more productive. In October 2021, however, I fell and broke my left patella while mountain biking. A week later, I had surgery to repair the break, and my knee was then immobilized in a brace. Several weeks after that I started physical therapy. But something was wrong. I was in excruciating, chronic pain, with swelling in the leg and high fevers. I was diagnosed with CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome).
During this time, my whole body, which had been very fit before the fall, itself became immobilized. I rarely moved from my recliner in the living room. The lack of exercise caused my body to atrophy, and I lost 30 pounds of mostly muscle. Weeks turned into months and none of my many doctors—specialists in orthopedics, pain management, infectious disease, wound care—could diagnose the problem. Finally, X-rays revealed major bone decay in the knee, caused by acute infection, and a surgeon quickly operated.
There’s even more to the story, but it’s easy to see what happens to the human body when it’s not moving as it should.
The same is true for the body of Christ. A healthy body is a moving body. It is built by Christ for his mission, which starts with “Go”! We weren’t built to merely congregate or assemble. Yes, we are called to gather as the body of Christ—whether that’s en masse on Sunday mornings, for instance, or throughout the week in in small groups—but that’s only part of who we are and what we do.
In Small Group Vital Signs, I describe a healthy church or small group as being like a football team that huddles to listen to the leader (quarterback), plan, encourage each other, and rest for a few seconds before running the next play. (OK, I know many teams do not huddle as they once did, but even if they go straight to the line of scrimmage, they still take a moment to do these things.) Huddles have a vital purpose, but no one ever won the game in the huddle.
Our gathering and meeting times are beneficial for us as the body of Christ in many ways—they help us listen to our Leader and carry out Christ’s mission—but they are not the mission. They are the huddle.
Would you define your church or group more by the gatherings and meetings or by what happens when you break the “huddle” . . . or both? A healthy body is one that takes needed time to rest, recover, rejuvenate, review, recalibrate, readjust, and ready itself for the risks ahead, but it doesn’t remain there. When it does remain too long in the holy huddle, bad things begin to happen: lethargy, atrophy, apathy, irrelevancy, and dereliction of duty.
If you are a church leader and your church is great at gathering but not so good at going, find ways to move folks into service and sharing their faith. The church I’m part of, Northeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is known around town as the “Love the ‘Ville church.” Serving our community has become part of our DNA. Perhaps we can serve as a model for you!
If you lead a small group, use an upcoming small group meeting to pray and plan for how you will serve together. Then do what Jesus commanded: Go!
I have found the following five books on this topic to be very helpful. The first three might be especially beneficial for church leaders. The last two, both by M. Scott Boren, are best suited for group leaders and members. (Note that I am an Amazon Affiliate. Clicking the links below will take you to Amazon where you can purchase these books, which supports the operation of this site and my ministry.)