In The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Reggie McNeal writes, “A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith. They contend that the church no longer contributes to their spiritual development.”

I wonder how the apostle Paul would view this phenomenon. He provided a biblical framework in 1 Corinthians 12 for how the church should function. Paul used a living, breathing analogy as he wrote, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). In many Bible translations, the last few words are rendered “so also is Christ.” Perhaps Paul was trying to drive home to his readers the idea that “Christ” and “church” could be used interchangeably. For Christ is the Head of the church, and the church is how He makes Himself known in the world today.

The apostle goes on to address two common church problems—the feeling of insignificance and an independent spirit. “Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part” (1 Corinthians 12:14). Essentially, every part in the body has an important part to play, and we’re mutually interdependent.

Next, Paul honed in on personal application. He wrote, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). So, before we make the decision to leave a local church, we need to ask first: How will my leaving affect the spiritual development of my brothers and sisters in this church?

Let’s consider our part before the congregation comes apart.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Luke 21:25-38