A Gaggle of Geese

By Calvin Culver

As I was walked to work recently I heard above me a sound which,
for the past several months, has been absent from our skies – the
honking of geese flying overhead. I stopped to watch as their
formation flew by over me when it occurred to me that we could take a
lesson from these birds on the nature of discipleship. What, one may
ask, does a flock of birds have to do with the Body of Christ? Let me
start by asking this: why do geese fly in a V-formation? Well, as
most people probably know, such a formation helps tremendously to
decrease drag due to air resistance. This, especially on long
migratory flights, enables the geese to travel long distances before
tiring. Apart and by himself, a lone goose could probably never fly
the long route from summer home to winter haven and back again.
Together, however, a flock of geese can accomplish what is impossible
for one alone.

At the head of the formation is, of course, the leader. Though I
know not the ways of geese, how they select their leaders, I would
speculate that the chosen is one who is strong enough to take the
brunt of the headwind while his fellows ride his draft, and in
addition is perhaps one who has traveled the road before. He rides at
the head while his flock follows, and guides them along the long and
difficult journey.

Such then is the nature of our journeys in Christ; we seek not to
follow Christ alone, irrespective of our brothers and our leaders, for
then what would we have but a horde of geese all jostling and shoving,
trying to assume the position immediately behind the leader. Instead,
Paul wrote, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

We may also see something of the nature of the Church here. For,
as I looked at the geese flying overhead I saw, not thirty-five or so
geese in the sky, but a diamond formation, moving in unison. To be
sure, there were individual geese in the formation but what I saw was,
above all, a flock. This, I believe, illustrates a facet of the
nature of the Church. We – modern, Western man – see the society
around us through our individualistic metaphysic; that is, the nature
of society is that it is nothing more, nor less, than a collection of
individuals. Concepts of such things as societal consciousness or
one’s responsibility to society are next to unknown, having been
replaced by concepts of the sovereignty of the individual.

Yet this was not always so. Medieval thought, for example,
tended to elevate society above individual, and it was almost
axiomatically held that an individual could not be fully realized
without acceptance and fulfillment of that niche to which society had
assigned him. This could be called an extreme form of societal, as
opposed to individualistic, metaphysic.

The nature of the Church, I believe, lies somewhere in between
these extremes – in a sort of communal nature. It is certainly more
than a mere collection of individual Christians, yet neither do the
individualities of its members get subsumed in its whole. Still,
there is something of a communal nature to the Church that we, with
our Western individualism, have failed to recognize. Thus, for
example, it seems to me that, as the Roman Catholic church has
declared, there is no salvation outside the Church. Not, indeed, in a
narrow sense which would define the Catholic – or any other – church
as the one true Church, but in that God mediates his salvation through
the body of Christ. Hence, the logical order of events at one’s
conversion is that he is first joined to the Church and then bestowed
with salvation. No one is truly saved who is not a member of the

Again, it is in this sense that Scripture declares that we are
the temple of the Holy Spirit. That is, the Body of Christ is the
temple in which the Spirit of Christ has chosen to dwell. And again,
when declaring that “the kingdom of God is within (among) you”,
Scripture announces that it is within the Body that God has
established his rule. It is our responsibility, as members of that
Body, to demonstrate to the world what is the nature of that kingdom.
And it is within this framework, as members of the true Flock, that we
are called to follow one another, as each of us seeks to follow

Computers for Christ – Chicago