A vital connection

By David Johnson | May 23, 2024

From [Christ] the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part. (Ephesians 4:16 CSB)

The human body is held together by connective tissue. So is the Body of Christ.

Connected in the human body

Medical science tells us that there are four primary types of animal tissue: epithelial (skin) tissue, muscle tissue, nervous tissue and connective tissue. Connective tissue is found everywhere in the body between other types of tissue, including in the nervous system. It is not just filler. It is vital for life itself.

Paul mentions one element of connective tissue by name in Ephesians 4:6, “every supporting ligament.” Ligaments, tendons, and even blood and bone are types of special connective tissue found throughout the human body. Isn’t it interesting that those same tissues are needed in the Body of Christ?

Jesus himself promotes the growth of the body to build itself up in love as every part does its job. That is how the church works!

Connected in the Body of Christ

Ephesians 4 describes a beautiful, integrated system of the Body of Christ with gifted leaders who equip its members for ministry. In this way, the body can be built up and grow in unity, strength and maturity in the faith. This much-needed work allows the body to overcome attacks from outside forces and internal strife by speaking the truth in love.

The ultimate goal is to grow to be like Christ in every way. That is not just true for individual believers. It is the goal for the church as a whole, which is then represented by local bodies of believers.

What is true for the corporate Body of Christ is also true of local churches. Just as connective tissue is needed in the church to give support and keep people connected and growing, it is also needed for churches to be built up and grow in ministry effectiveness.

That is where the Arizona Mission Network comes in.

Connected as a network of churches

A network of churches can function as connective tissue to connect the muscles of strong churches with the weaknesses of struggling churches. It can supply bones of support to churches that may be faltering. And it can give life-giving blood supply to churches that are discouraged or dying.

A network can connect churches that are strong in one area but need help in another.

A church may have a good Bible teaching ministry but lack in children’s ministry. Or a church may have compelling worship services but need help with technical areas like media or online presence. A church may have a dynamic youth ministry but is not organized well enough to sustain it.

The list can go on and on, but connective tissue is necessary to make it happen. Still, how does that work? What does it look like?

Connected through relationships

The greatest connective tissue for a network is relationships.

Churches that isolate themselves cut themselves off from the best resources for growing in ministry effectiveness. We can learn from each other, encourage each other and help each other in the challenges we face if we will simply connect.

That can be done in a local association or with churches that share similar ministry settings or perspectives. You may even connect with a pastor or church that you hear or read about in the network that is doing something you would like to explore. Or you may become aware of a church that is facing some challenges in an area where your church is thriving.

But it begins with being willing to reach out and build a relationship. That is where the connection begins.

Connected for the mission

The Arizona Mission Network values churches partnering with churches as we all work together in the mission God has given us. The best role for our network is to be the connective tissue that helps churches find resources and coaching for more effective ministry.

We do that by communicating what God is doing among our churches in publications like this one and online through our website and newsletter, as well as enhancing personal connections with churches. We do all of that while cooperating together in our giving through the Cooperative Program to send missionaries, plant churches and train those called to ministry.

Being connected is not only vital to cooperation but to everything we do as a network of churches. We believe being a part of a network of churches like ours is a vital connection!

Next Steps

  • What are the strengths of your church? How might your church help other churches that are not strong in that area? Consider speaking to your pastor or associational mission strategist about how your church might be helpful to other churches.
  • What are some areas that your church is struggling? How could another church that excels in that area be beneficial to your church? Would your church be receptive to another church helping you grow in that area? If so, consider contacting your local association or the Arizona Mission Network.
  • What skills or gifts do you have that would be helpful to your local church? Are you using them to serve? If not, perhaps you could volunteer to serve in a ministry or talk with your pastor about how you could be helpful to your church in ministering to others.
  • The Arizona Mission Network is working on compiling a database of the signature strengths of our churches. If you are a pastor or leader, would you consider emailing us at office@azmn.org with what you think are the signature strengths of your church?

David Johnson is executive director of the Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists.

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