About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
The local expression of
church consists of individual believers, each with his or her own
God-given talents and ministry responsibilities, who by the Holy Spirit,
have been united in personal relationships with other believers to form
one unified body that accomplishes God's will.
Much like our physical
bodies, 1 Corinthians 12 states church to be a body of believers
consisting of distinct individual members.
Each diverse member has his or her specific responsibility in
maintaining a healthy unified body.
It's called "diversity within unity," meaning, a diverse
group of individuals who form one unified body.
The term "relational autonomy" is important in
maintaining unity in the midst of diversity.
"relational" in "relational autonomy" presupposes that
the individual believer is in supportive personal relationships with
others in the body, the church. No
one is an island unto himself or herself.
"autonomy" in "relational autonomy" implies that
despite being immersed (1 Corinthians 12:13) with other believers in
Christ's body, the individual maintains a measure of autonomy and
believer's personal distinctiveness is preserved as he performs his
ministry responsibilities with those to whom he is in relationship.
The process by which the individual collaborates with other
individuals is meant to cultivate a unity within the local expression of
the Community of Christ which produces effective ministry.
When understanding church consisting of many autonomous individuals that form one unified community, we cannot over-emphasize the individual to the neglect of the community. Neither can we over-emphasize the community at the expense of the individual. An individual cannot impose himself onto the community and the community cannot impose itself onto the individual. Church implies community, not communism.
autonomy is the concept whereby the individual maintains his distinctive
identity as he or she collaborates with others in one unified community
that accomplishes God's will for that community.