The role of the Brethren
“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them to send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas -- Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, and they sent this letter by them, ‘The apostles and the brethren who are elders, to the brethren in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the Gentiles, greetings.’” (Acts 15:22-23)
I believe that in this verse, Paul outlines the governmental structure for the church: the Apostles, the Elders, and the Brethren. In this post (and those to come) we will look at some of the roles of the Brethren. This list is not exhaustive, but contains some of the role I believe to be important.
“But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-27)
It is the brethren who are to provide care to the body. It is not the responsibility of the pastor, the elders, or any paid staff; it is the sole responsibility of the brethren to care one for another. God has designed the Body so that each member should care for the other members of the body. Unfortunately, in the western church we have strayed away from this reality. We hire pastors and paid staff and expect them to care for the people. When we have a need, we look to the pastor for counseling, prayer, and comfort. When someone in our church is suffering, we direct them to someone else for ministry rather than ministering to them ourselves. We fail to see ourselves as ministers as much as we fail to see that all of God’s people are capable of ministering. There are two keys to making the transition from a staff/pastor led system of care to a becoming a body of caring believers.
First, we must accept that we are needed and that we need the other members of the Body. “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Corinthians 12:15-16, 21) We are all part of the Body and we are all needed; we all have something to offer and we all have a part to play. In the Body, there are not suppliers and consumers; some members that supply care and other that consume it. Rather we are all to be supplies and consumers of what the Body has to offer. It is in the giving and receiving that we grow in the strength and stature of the Lord.
This leads us to the second key; we need to develop genuine relationships within the Body of Christ. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16) A joint is the place where two parts meet. Joints represent relationships between two parts of the body. Notice that it is at the joint where each member gives and receives life from the other members. If we are to be a church where each member cares for one another, then we must become a church that is “fitted and held together” by the relationships formed between its members.
More to come… David Robison