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JOHN PEARRELL: If we belong to Christ, we need to be connected with His body, the church.

In last week's column, I concluded my thoughts on the church by stating that if we were to be obedient Christ followers, and enjoy the full benefits of our walk with Him, we cannot isolate ourselves from the fellowship of believers, from the church.

My support for this thought was taken from Hebrews 10:25 where we are enjoined not to fall into the practice of non-attendance.

Also in that column, I drew a parallel between trying to be my friend while at the same time despising my bride and pointed out that a similar disparity is found among people who claim to be Christ's friend but despise His bride, the church.

In the New Testament, the church is described both as the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. This is fitting, by the way, since the Bible describes the union of a man and a wife as becoming "one flesh" (Ephesians 5:31) and counsels husbands to love their wives as they "love their own bodies" (Ephesians 5:28).

Most of us know what it is to fall asleep and wake up with an arm that has "fallen asleep." Most of the time that experience amounts to an odd tingling sensation in the extremity, but every once in a while the arm goes completely asleep, and a moment of panic may ensue.

I recall one night waking up to what felt like a lead weight sitting on my torso. I soon discovered that that lead weight was my own right arm. What frightened me was I had no feeling in the arm and I couldn't move it, try as I might. The fingers of my hand would not close and I couldn't get the arm off my body.

Talk about panic. I had to move the arm with my left hand, and twist and turn to get up, with my right arm hanging helplessly at my side, and, I have to say, I was a little worried. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before and for a brief time I was thinking "stroke."

Eventually however, the blood flow returned, the tingling began, and slowly and painfully, my hand begun to respond to my brain's command to move. I breathed a great sigh of relief.

Suppose for a minute that happened to you, only as you rolled yourself out of bed, you looked down and your arm actually remained on the bed, detached at the shoulder. Would you calmly walk around, get dressed as usual and pretend nothing was wrong? I don't think so.

Yet, that is exactly what happens in the church week after week. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, describes the church as a body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. He points out that as such, each part is needed and one part cannot divorce itself from the rest without crippling the body and harming itself in the process.

There are a lot of stunted Christians running around in our world precisely because they refuse to find the nourishment they need from being in vital contact with the rest of the body of Christ.

It strikes me that since the Bible pictures the church as one body, the assumption is, if we belong to Christ we need to be connected with His body, the church. I don't see how anyone can read that passage in 1 Corinthians 12 and come to any other conclusion.

Let me be blunt, I don't care who you are, you need the church and the church needs you.

Let's go back to our illustration. One morning you get up, and your leg is in the living room watching the television set. You, of course, are hindered by this, and not a little upset.

But your leg says to you, "Hey, it's OK, see, I'm watching a show about the human body; that's all I need to really be a part of the body, why should I be connected to you? You'll only take me outside and abuse me by jogging or something."

I'm sure you would understand the logic and go out and enjoy a morning hop instead of your usual run. Yeah, right.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.