What to Look for in a Church: A Fully-Functioning Body

iStock-157585267What to Look for in a Church: A Fully-Functioning Body


Church shouldn’t be a spectator sport. It isn’t an event that you watch a few people put on each Sunday. You shouldn’t be content to simply sit in a row, week after week, watching “the home team” pray, sing, and preach. But unfortunately, that is how many people view church.

Sadly, some churches treat their members as sideline spectators. These churches clearly have a “home team” or a select group of people who seem to do everything in and for the church, which leaves everyone else waiting on the sidelines.

According to Ministry Life, “Many churches exist in a state of paralysis. For churches where the Pareto principle holds true, 20% of the believers do 80% of the work and 80% of the people do 20% of the work. If 80% of a body can barely function, it’s called a quadriplegic. Every believer has a role to play. Every part should function and engage in what God is doing in the church.”

You do not want a church where 80% of the church body is barely functioning. Instead, you want to look for a church with a fully-functioning church body, or a church where all members are encouraged to use their spiritual gifts for ministry to one another.

If you haven’t grown up in church circles, the idea of the church as a fully-functioning body may not make much sense…yet. Hang with me. We’ll break it down so that you understand what it means, how it looks, and why it is so important for healthy churches.

What Is a Fully-Functioning Body?

The idea of the church as a body is a key concept in the New Testament.

Got Questions explains, “The phrase ‘the Body of Christ’ is a common New Testament metaphor for the Church (all those who are truly saved). […] When Christ entered our world, He took on a physical body “prepared” for Him (Hebrews 10:5; Philippians 2:7). Through His physical body, Jesus demonstrated the love of God clearly, tangibly, and boldly—especially through His sacrificial death on the cross (Romans 5:8). After His bodily ascension, Christ continues His work in the world through those He has redeemed—the Church now demonstrates the love of God clearly, tangibly, and boldly. In this way, the Church functions as ‘the Body of Christ.’”

Like a human body, the church is made up of several different parts. However, for the church to work, like a human body, all these different parts must work together.

In other words, a healthy church is one where all the parts (members of the church) work together using their unique spiritual gifts to minister to one another.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 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? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. – 1 Corinthians 12:15-20


Blog Post: Unpacking the Spiritual Gifts

A Fully-Functioning Body is a Healthy Church

As you visit a new church, you may notice that it seems to have too few members doing most of the work for the church. This isn’t a good sign.

Kevin DeYoung suggests in The Gospel Coalition, “If your elders, deacons, trustees, small group leaders, Sunday school teachers, VBS coordinators, and worship team members are the same now as they were during the Reagan administration, you have a problem. Maybe the old leaders are power hungry, maybe no one is being trained up, maybe no one new has come to your church in twenty years. All are big problems.”

Churches should be in the business of equipping members to use their spiritual gifts and serve in different areas of ministry. If the same people keep doing all the ministering, it means other members aren’t being equipped or even allowed to use their spiritual gifts as they should. This is a sign of an unhealthy church.

In contrast, a fully-functioning body is a sign of a healthy church. Does the church have opportunities to use your spiritual gifts? Do you see a variety of church members serving in unique capacities? Does the church recognize the purpose of each area of ministry and explain why it is a necessary part of the body?

Every member should be encouraged to get out of their pew and find a way to use their spiritual gifts to minister.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. – Romans 12:4-8

The Consequences of Churches Without a Fully Functioning Body

There will be several issues if a church doesn’t have a fully-functioning body.

First, the pastor or the few frequent volunteers will likely experience burnout. They will grow weary and dissatisfied.

Next, things will not get accomplished as they should. Think of the image of someone trying to spin all the plates simultaneously. The plates will eventually fall and break. Likewise, if someone is responsible for too many parts of the church, things will fall apart.

Finally, new members won’t be equipped, trained, or taught how to use their spiritual gifts for ministry. As a result, their spiritual walk may grow stagnant.

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 […] Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. – Ephesians 4:11-12 and 15-16


Watch Pastor Matt's Sermon, "Fully Functioning"