The Future Practitioners of the Body of Christ – Excerpt from my book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

by Mark Votava


“Rooted in intellect and experience, this book is a charge for the Church to reorient its identity from an autonomous entity to an interconnected organism.  Acknowledging the high cost of such a reorientation, Mark offers a vision and set of practices that might just allow us to experience life and faith as it was meant to be lived.”  Jon Huckins, neighborhood practitioner, author of Thin Places

The body of Christ is not some mechanism with no heart and life, but a living breathing body.  All bodies breathe, move, change and relate to their environment.  When bodies are unhealthy they stop functioning properly.  When bodies are dead we bury them.  Kester Brewin says, “We must reestablish ourselves as the body of Christ, not the machine of Christ.  Bodies are organic, dynamic, sentient, and conscious…  Machines break down, while bodies evolve…”  We should be an evolving body in everyday life together.  Will we feel the pain and the joy of living life together and loving one another?

These are difficult real-life experiences that we cannot escape if we are to be human.  We are not building a machine but a body.  I don’t want to become a part of a machine where I become the very fuel that it needs to work.  This reminds me of the movie The Matrix where Neo finds out that the machine world is using human beings as fuel.  Everyone thinks they are living life the way it was meant to be, and no one realizes they are living an illusion.  It may be an extreme metaphor but the church of our day seems to be playing inside of a Matrix of its own, and a lot of people are hiding behind its clichés.

I feel that the lay people, the people who are the ordinary folk, who live common ordinary lives are going to be the future practitioners of the body of Christ in local contexts, living in local neighborhoods, receiving wisdom through experiments of local embodiment.  Living relationally, in locality, in neighborhood, doesn’t take any fancy theological degrees from prestigious schools to accomplish.  All it really takes is a willingness to be faithful to God and to others and to a place.  All it takes is a listening posture to change and live your life together with others in community.  All it takes is vulnerability and courage.  All it takes is investing your life and giving up our extreme individualism and learning how to be the church together.  Elaine A. Heath and Scott T. Kisker in their book Longing for Spring, say, “The pattern of renewal occurs over and over in the history of the church.  Worldliness creeps into the structures of the church, and God inspires His people to experiment with models of faithfulness.  Renewal does not happen when the laity ‘take control’ of the church, but rather when the laity realize we are the church.”

How can we strive to become the future practitioners of the body of Christ?