The Organizational Structure and Environment of the Early Church

Lessons from Covid-19, #9

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ( Micah 6:8)

For readers who have followed this series, this pivotal lesson begins to present the organizational model from antiquity applicable to modern lives and society.  It begins the argument that wandering away from that platform has resulted in the troubled preparation for , and responses to, the Covid-19 pandemic. For those joining for the first time, the preceding chapters have been background to this.

The Apostle Paul presented the model for the Church in his first letter to the Corinthians. He presented  a model organizational structure through which each person could exercise God’s directive through the Old Testament prophet Micah. In the verses preceding the model for the church, he listed  the special abilities, or gifts distributed among the believers through the Holy Spirit. A system of church organization was presented that would allow the various gifts to be expressed in a collective enterprise, to the early church, and right up to our present day. 

The church is described as a human body in a particular way, and repeated for emphasis:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts, and though all of its parts are many, they form one body.” (1 Cor 12:12),

and:

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1Cor 12:14),

and:

“If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is there are many parts , but one body.” (1 Cor 12: 19-20)

This had to be emphasized, so the original hearers and we today would be more likely to take it to heart. It will be shown that we still “don’t get it” today to our detriment through the ages for us, our church, other modern institutions, and our intertwined health systems and environment.

One of the biggest problems of Canada’s provincial and federal healthcare system is the degree of fragmentation, or groups working in silos. This is also an international problem , evident in our  discoordinated response to the pandemic.

Paul foresaw this and repeated again for emphasis, that:

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be.” (1 Cor 12:17)

“The eye cannot say to the hand , I don’t need you!, And the head cannot say to the feet , “I don’t need you!” (1Cor 12:21)

Paul emphasizes  that no part of the body is to be excluded. The ancients did not know a lot about the immune system (how our bodies fight off infections). But remember the initial covenant with Adam and Eve to care for the creation and have dominion over it. 

It is evident that our knowledge now of managing infection has not been integrated into the whole system enough, resulting in the shutdown of the rest of the healthcare system while a single virus infects humans around the world. 

The body clearly includes our immune system, and using the illustration of the church as a body,  Paul responds that:

“God has placed the parts of the body, every one of them, just the way he wanted them to be (1 Cor 12:18),

And emphasizes this with:

“...But God has put the body together...so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” (1Cor 12:24-25)

“... So that there should be no division of the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it: if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor 12: 25-26)

Next, we will look deeper into how the metaphor (a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two things that are unrelated, but share common characteristics) of the church as an organization being like a human body is the key to our way forward out of our current problems.

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