Pop music isn’t normally a haven for good theology, but there are times when you can listen to the radio, or even to an old song, and gain encouragement from the experience.
Allow me to share a few examples. In 1969, the rock band Three Dog Night took a song written by Harry Nilsson and climbed the charts to No. 5 with “One Is the Loneliest Number.” Remember the lyrics? “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one. It’s the loneliest number since the number one.”
OK, so it’s not deep truth. Or theology. Or much of anything. But there’s truth in those words. It’s lonely being a “one.” I remember my days as a single, going to the supermarket to buy some chicken for supper, only to find that singles are like plankton on the food chain. Nobody packages foods for “ones.” Everything was in a family pack. I didn’t want four chicken breasts; I only wanted one. But I ended up with four. Rats, I thought. It’s not fun being a “one.” One is the loneliest…you get the idea.
Go back even further in time and you may just find a song by the Delta Rhythm Boys. Believe it or not, you can still dig up the song “Dem Bones” on Youtube. I wouldn’t want to sing this in church, right after “Amazing Grace,” but it’s clear it was based on Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones (Eze. 37). The lyrics go like this: “The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone…” You get the picture. It’s a picture of connectedness. And what’s what we have as followers of Jesus Christ.
There are many biblical metaphors that describe the people of God. We’re a building. We’re the Bride of Christ. Perhaps the most-used, and clearest, is the analogy of the body, for that analogy describes our unity in diversity. When Paul wrote 1 Cor. 12, he wrote within the context of first century Judaism. The focus was on division.
Paul would talk about that in other letters – perhaps most vividly in Eph. 2 – and always with the idea that, in Christ, people who had nothing but enmity in common were brought together and now, in Jesus, we can call each other “brothers” and “sisters” – and really mean it!
So in 1 Corinthians12:12-13 Paul writes, For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. While we have differing gifts and backgrounds, we are one in Christ. That word “one” shows up seven times in Ephesians 4:4-6. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We’re one. Unity is not something we have to produce but, according to Ephesians 4:3, a commodity that we already have and are called to protect. As Christians we ought to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Joni Eareckson Tada puts it this way: “Believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it.”
Summer is a great time to focus on our connectedness in the Bible Fellowship Church. I experienced that personally more than four decades ago when, at age 19, I became a counselor at Victory Valley Camp. Not all the campers or summer missionaries were from the BFC, but certainly plenty of them were, and the bonds of our partnership in ministry were so strong that I still maintain friendships that started back in 1979 and carried through much of the 1980s. While the good people at Grace BFC in Quakertown have this habit of insisting that I, as their pastor, actually serve at Grace throughout the year, whenever I have an opportunity I like to visit other BFC churches. There may be subtle differences in music or in the order of service, but we share a common set of beliefs, and beyond that there’s a camaraderie in Christ that unites us. I experience the same joys each year at BFC Conference and at other Bible Fellowship Events like the three weeks of Summer Conference at Pinebrook.
So while each of us has our home congregation, may I suggest looking for opportunities to connect with other Christians? I’m fond of saying, “We are the body of Christ, with branch offices everywhere.” Maybe what I’m suggesting is building stronger relationships within your particular church. That’s as good a means as any of understanding how important the church is. It’s important to our Savior. As we read in Ephesians 5:25, husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her… If the church is important to Jesus, it ought to be important to us as Christian believers.
But maybe connectedness looks like seeking opportunities for fellowship with others in the greater church, whether that be through attendance at a conference or taking part on a missions trip. I remember, many years ago, sitting in an airport in Eastern Europe, reading my Bible while waiting for my flight home. Suddenly a young couple appeared and a young man cleared his throat and asked a timid question: “Are you…Christian?” As soon as I said yes, a smile crossed his face. We were no longer strangers but two brothers and a sister, and we talked until our respective planes departed.
Yes, the church is the body of Christ. And we indeed have branch offices everywhere!
article by Ron Kohl, pastor of Grace BFC in Quakertown, PA and chairman of the BFC Communications Committee which oversees OneVoice Magazine