Most people from large families were too young to remember all that their parents went through as the family continued to expand. Some of us who are parents of several children have vivid memories of how we shifted and adjusted, bought bunk beds, and added on to our house to make room for more. Growing families—especially those whose numbers continue to enlarge—call for all kinds of creative responses. Growing churches experience the same kind of stresses. There are times when attending a growing church is exciting…and other times when it is irritating.
Living Portraits of the Church
We need one another…even if we don’t always want to admit it. Human beings were made to thrive in relationships—with God and with people. And yet we are often tempted to ignore God’s unique communal design for those who follow Christ: the church.
But what is the church, and what is our place in it? The Bible uses a variety of metaphors to describe Christ’s church. In this series, Living Portraits of the Church, Chuck Swindoll explains four of those metaphors: a growing family, a dependent flock, a functioning body, and the branches of a flourishing vine. This series will help take us beyond understanding how God desires us to be in community. It will show us how it can happen.
Among the many portraits of the church painted in Scripture, none is more calming and comforting than a flock of sheep under the watchful eye of a caring shepherd. And when we add the presence of a pasture full of lush, green grass, the picture is even more appealing. But this is almost too idealistic. The truth is, not all sheep stay in the flock…not all shepherds are caring and faithful…not all that’s lush and green is edible grass…and not all peaceful places are free of danger. Let’s trace this analogy through several scriptural scenes.
Studies in anatomy occupy the attention of every medical student in the world. If they hope to understand how to help people with physical needs, they must know how the body is put together, how it functions, and what causes it to malfunction. Christians would do well to emulate students of medicine. Since we are members of His body, over which Christ serves as Head, understanding the body would give us a better understanding of the church—how it’s put together, how it functions, and how to respond when it malfunctions.
In the three previous messages, we have examined other “living portraits” of the universal church of Jesus Christ: a growing family, a flock of sheep, and a human body. Each analogy conveys different aspects of God’s people on earth. We have come to the fourth and final mental picture—a productive vine—another vivid analogy preserved for us in the Word of God. In fact, this one comes to us from the lips of Jesus as He left His disciples words of encouragement just before He was crucified.