Every Southern household has its own recipe for peach cobbler. They differ widely. Personally, I like a lot of peaches, a nice goopy consistency with the filling, and a crispy, sugary crust. Others may prefer a more biscuit-like pastry, or a deeper pastry level than I like. That’s fine. Some prefer to make theirs in a casserole dish in the oven, some like the Crock Pot, some go old school and use a cast-iron Dutch oven over an open fire. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. But we all absolutely must agree on two bits of business: it must feature peaches, and it must be a cobbler. It’s right there in the name, after all. Peach. Cobbler.
For the uninitiated, a couple of basics. One, my deepest sympathies. Two, a “cobbler” differs from a standard pie because of the crust component. A peach pie has a thin layer of pastry at the bottom of the pie, and perhaps the top as well. It cuts neatly into wedges. A cobbler has a much deeper layer of pastry that fluffs up and absorbs a great deal of the innards of the dish. Any cobbler made in a pie pan probably doesn’t merit the term “cobbler,” although large cast-iron skillets are not unknown to the form. Some depth is required of the cooking vessel for the cobbler to “cobble” properly. That’s probably not the proper term, but whatever.
I bring this up not to alter your lunch plans but rather to illustrate the difference between essentials and acceptable variation. We have “wiggle room” in our personal applications of various principles, but at some point we lose the essence of what we are trying to accomplish. It becomes unrecognizable to others, and even to ourselves.
As with peach cobbler, the body of Christ has a couple of elements without which it cannot properly exist. First, it must belong to Christ. When we talk about “our church” being established by some man at some point in history — or even when we use the term “our church” in the first place — we show it to not be His. It is His body and His alone that is attached to “the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). The thought of multiple bodies attached to the single Head is an abomination. It cannot be.
Secondly, it must be a “body.” The disparate members function individually, but they also function as a unit. If you are not bound together with brothers and sisters in Christ in a real, significant spiritual way, you are not functioning as part of a body — and, hence, as part of His body. Saved ones were added together at the point of salvation (Acts 2:47); if we have to stop and ask how “together” we are required to be or whether we must be “together” for a certain number of hours in the week, we show ourselves to have no concept of what the body of Christ truly is.
That said, there is certainly room for variety of application. If we submit to Jesus to the point of putting Him on in baptism (Galatians 3:27), and we submit to our brethren to the point of honoring our Lord through our service to others (Ephesians 5:21), we should feel free to rejoice in “body membership,” as it were. Some local “bodies” may emphasize prayer more than others, or song worship, or Bible study. Some may make special efforts to be in one another’s homes regularly. Some have longer assemblies, some shorter, some more, some fewer.
As long as everything is being done under Christ’s authority (Colossians 3:17), and done for the edification of the members (1 Corinthians 14:26), we should delight in our diverse approaches. The more we experiment (again, always remaining within the boundaries of authority), the more we find what is effective for our individual congregations of believers.
In that sense, at least, it truly is a matter of taste.