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Metaphors for the Church

Updated on April 9, 2013
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In Gareth Morgan’s book Images of Organization, he discusses the use of metaphors as “a way of thinking and a way of seeing that pervade how we understand our world generally” (2006, pg. 4, italics his).

When one discusses the organization of the church as not only a religious affiliation but as an organization of politics, people and religious aspects, it is easy to come up with a long list of metaphors describing the organizational aspects.

The most common of these is the body of Christ, the lamp or light guiding us, the church as the bride of Christ, and even His flock.

However, one metaphor comes to mind in relation to the purpose of writing this discussion from the perspective of a student. In Luke 14:27, the NIV bible states “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Biblica Inc., 2011).

In this verse the Lord is asking his people to come as they are, as sinners in one form or another, and still follow Him, knowing that through His teaching and guidance, they will become whole.

In another verse, Acts 11:26 (NIV), states “and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (2011).

The Lord calls those who follow Him and His teachings disciples, as well as those to whom He sends out to teach what they have learned from Him.

As disciples of Christ, in His church, not only are we to be students of what He is teaching us, but we are to leave His church, go forth, and teach others through our living examples of His Word.

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However, one metaphor comes to mind in relation to the purpose of writing this discussion from the perspective of a student. In Luke 14:27, the NIV bible states “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Biblica Inc., 2011).

In this verse the Lord is asking his people to come as they are, as sinners in one form or another, and still follow Him, knowing that through His teaching and guidance, they will become whole.

In another verse, Acts 11:26 (NIV), states “and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (2011).

The Lord calls those who follow Him and His teachings disciples, as well as those to whom He sends out to teach what they have learned from Him.

As disciples of Christ, in His church, not only are we to be students of what He is teaching us, but we are to leave His church, go forth, and teach others through our living examples of His Word.

Teaching and learning, as anyone in the profession of Education is well familiar with, is not an easy job. Learning is difficult, often fraught with a great deal of reading and even more writing, sometimes almost too much to bear in the time limit given to complete it.

Being a student is not intended to be easy. Just as well, students in one’s classroom typically do not sit still, sit quietly, and absorb everything the teacher is saying without battle. There are forces at work in the background regardless of actions, words, experiences and situations.

There is a battle raging for the souls of God’s people. Satan and his demons are pulling one way and the Truth is pulling the other. As unseen physically as this particular battle generally is, it manifests in the words, actions, and behaviors of the human race.

Satan is crafty and intends to win the battle. Therefore, not only are we called as disciples of Christ to learn from Him and teach others, but we also have to His army in this battle raging unseen in the background.

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2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV) says “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer ” (Biblica Inc., 2011).

As soldiers of Christ we are instructed to stay the mission, focus on what we were put on this Earth to do and continue to proclaim His name and His teachings without wavering. Ephesians 6:10-17 even talks about the Armor of God that He has given us to do just this.

The bible is filled with metaphors to help us to understand what the Lord wants from us while we are here on Earth. “In recognizing theory as metaphor, we quickly appreciate that no single theory will ever give us a perfect or all-purpose point of view” (Morgan, 2006, pg. 5).

Although these metaphors give us a pretty distinct view of the organization of the church, neither of them is perfect without all of the others.

Consider then the church as the body, His temple, His flock, a lamp or light for His followers, the salt of the Earth, the wife and family of Christ, and all others to get a fuller picture of what the Lord wants His people to truly see.

References

Biblica Inc. (2011). Biblegateway.com. Retrieved from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+6%3A10-17&version=NIV.

Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organization. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

Rudd, S. (n.d.) What is the church? Retrieved from http://www.bible.ca/ntx-what-is-the-church.htm.

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