Church: Octopus or Bicycle?

I am extremely grateful to my colleague Sandy (we do, sometimes, actually work together!) for his fantastic blog on Lent. It begs the questions around what we do, why we do it and how it impacts our lives. This started me thinking (I know, very dangerous…) about what the church IS called to do.

On 12th March, about 50 meetings ago… I attended the meeting of the North Western Synod of the United Reformed Church. My main purpose of being there was decided before my secondary purpose. I, along with 4 other young people, were invited to give a presentation about our trip to the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan back in 2015, the secondary purpose being an U26 attendee at the meeting/Moderator-Elect. This was in my diary for a long time, a long time before every other day got filled around it after my election at Youth Assembly, this diary-filling meant that I was blessed to see the General Secretary, Revd. John Proctor (amongst others), a whole 4 days in a row!

It was what John said on the final day of our holiday(??) together that has stuck with me ever since about what the church is called to do.

His Bible study was titled “The Church: Octopus or Bicycle?”. Now I knew that New Testament Scholars were a bit nuts, but John took it to a whole new level… but he assured us that there was method in the madness, so I continued listening!

The study drew from Paul’s 3rd and 4th letters to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 3, verses 10 and 20 were significantly highlighted:

10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known… 20the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”

Ephesians 3: 10,20 (NRSV)

Verse 20 was not considered to mean power as in high authority, but power in terms of being empowered. There is also emphasis on the “us”, that (a guilty drawing of parallel to High School Musical…) we’re all in this together!

Chapter 4 refers to “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. Wow! What a special thing, a bond of peace, one which we should all share. But I feel the main thing that we should all hold in our hearts is this:

7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift…

11The gifts he gave were that some would be APOSTLES, some PROPHETS, some EVANGELISTS, some PASTORS and TEACHERS, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up THE BODY OF CHRIST, 13until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God”

Ephesians 4: 7, 11-13 (NRSV)

The church is bless with 5 different “types” of people:

  • Apostolic
    • Who explores new ways of outreach
  • Prophetic
    • Responds to God in the world
  • Evangelistic
    • Commends the faith to others
  • Pastoral
    • Supports people and their needs
  • Teaching
    • Deepens knowledge of Christ

I wouldn’t say that this list is exhaustive, but certainly encompasses a majority of personalities within the church. All 5 are of vital importance, but perhaps your church has (however unintentionally) a bigger focus on one area. I know that my local church is big on pastoral, we’re fantastic at looking out for each other and caring for each other. However I think big improvements can be made in terms of our evangelism and prophetic-ness!

  • What would you call yourself in terms of these 5 “types”?
  • What “type” is your church good at?
  • What could they improve on?

We, the church, have been called to do all of these things to the best of our ability, in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and be united in peace.

Calfee-Bamboo-Pro-with-EPS-Internal-Battery-and-Look-Zed2-Cranks-25-minSo, the church: Octopus or Bicycle? octopusesJohn Proctor referred to a majority of churches today being octopi (yes that is the correct plural!). An octopus has 8 limbs, it uses a couple of these limbs to cling onto the rock for apparent safety, whilst the rest try to reach out. Now sadly, you can only reach so far whilst still clinging to the rock. The church can be seen as trying to move on in some areas, however it is still being held back by things it clings on to, and refuses to let go of. The church can’t move on, or fully reach out, until it lets go of some things. Sound logical? Of course it does! I was nodding my head like a Churchill dog as John explained this analogy. Bicycle… how??! Well, put simply, a bicycle is only stable when it’s moving! If your bike is standing still, it’s very unstable. So we can adapt this into a church context and say that if the church is dynamic, and isn’t static, then we won’t stagnate, we won’t get stuck!

So there we are:

  • Is your church an octopus or a bicycle?
  • How can your church be more bicycle-y
  • What are the “limbs” in your church that are clinging on to the rock, that hold you back?
  • How could you ween/prise these limbs off the rock? Don’t cut them, I urge you not to cut them, that will cause too much hurt (both to the octopus and the church), but work with it!

I’m eternally grateful to John Proctor for this fantastic Bible study and it has indeed (as you can see from this blog) struck a good chord!

Have a ponder of the questions I’ve asked, think about them, write about them, you can comment on this blog, or comment on social media, GET INVOLVED!


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