By Scott L: Guest Blogger
So, I have now trodden the well-worn theological path of what is, or WHO is, the church. I put forth that the Greek New Testament word for ‘church’ is ekklesia. It simply means a ‘called out people’. Biblically, church is not a building, a day of the week, or great programs. It is the people of God called together for a purpose. Though the first blog might have seemed somewhat theologically dry for some, I believe such foundational knowledge of Scripture regarding the topic of church can actually change our mindset and help breathe life and passion into knowing God’s heart for His Bride. Click here to see the last article, Church 101- The Basics.
Now that we have somewhat established a foundation from which we can work with, it would probably be best to move on to more practical matters. If church is truly about the people of Christ, obviously committed to God’s heart and kingdom purposes, then we have to ask what that means for our everyday lives, right?
To start off, one of my favorite passages concerning a description of God’s intention for church is found in Acts 2:42-47:
‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’
When we take a moment to look around, does the church today look much like this? Maybe, or maybe not? One might say, ‘Well, we live in the 21st century today. That was 2,000 years ago. We aren’t supposed to look like that.’ And granted, I understand that we do not dress like those people, we have a bit more technology, and much more opportunity for buildings. But, ironically, this passage never mentions dress or technology, and, it is interesting to note that the main place of meeting was their homes or a temple that they did not even own. The passage seems to mainly focus on the life of the church, the life of the people — how they wanted to learn what the apostles were teaching, how they wanted to share life together, pray together, celebrate communion, share possessions as needed, go from house to house, and God was even displaying some pretty miraculous wonders in their midst. Looks a little different from the western church today, does it not?
As a friend of mine aptly stated it once:
In Biblical times, the greatest institution upheld was that of the family, and therefore God’s people were referred to and functioned as a family. In 21st century America, the greatest institution of our culture is that of the business, and thus, the Church tends to function as such.
When I heard that statement, it put into words what I had been feeling for quite sometime. If we function as a business, then everything plays out in a pyramid where so and so is at the top, a few slightly lesser important people are under that leader, until we get down to the ‘regulars’ at the bottom. Now, trust me, I believe in God-ordered leadership, and we need it. But consider the greatest leader in the history of time, that being Jesus, and we see His leadership model was a little different than what is currently expounded in most leadership books today. But I will save that subject for a later time.
When we function as a business, we have to wear our best suits rather than dress as we are. We have to shake hands and simply ask, ‘How are you?’ with the other answering, ‘I’m fine.’ We are fearful of answering much more than that because it might get in the way of business mode. And we then become the ‘Hi and fine church’.
Frank: How are you?
Ted: I’m fine. How are you?
Frank: I’m fine. How is your wife?
Ted: Oh, she’s fine.
Frank: How are your children?
Ted: Oh, they’re fine.
Frank: How’s the dog?
Ted: He’s fine.
Frank: How’s the stock market?
Ted: Oh, it’s fine.
No, waitâ€¦You see, we become the ‘Hi and fine church’. Now, of course, we cannot possibly expect to have a deep, God-initiated relationship with everyone. But we want to guard against the danger of being one of the thousands within an institution that functions like corporate business America. (Let me assure you, I have nothing against good businesses and all they provide in the world; I’m just arguing that church is not to look like such.)
Functioning as a business will ultimately see church become mainly about task and not relationship. Yes, I know we have a task to be completed. I want to see the kingdom rule of God extended in all the earth, I want to see others enter into the worship relationship we have entered into, I want God’s purpose accomplished in the earth. But if we have task without relationship, an unhealthy church will be formed. As I have challenged elsewhere, simply consider the Trinity — they get on nicely with the task they have committed to, but their relational love for one another is first, and actually makes the task more enjoyable.
Just imagine that, if the Spirit wanted to draw someone to the Son, He first had to fill out a request form to do such, complete with insurance coverage in case things did not work out the way the one being drawn so desired.
You see, we do have a call that needs to take place — to come in line with a Biblical understanding of God’s heart for the church, His Bride, His people, His flock. It’s something that is burning in my heart, and I long for it to burn within the church worldwide. We might just need to take a little more time reading through the New Testament to discover God’s purpose for church, instead of reading the next top-selling self-help or leadership principle book on the shelf. And, as God’s Spirit breathes while we read, something will begin to happen in our hearts. A renewed passion for the church will arise.
I’ll share some more thoughts in the future
Rey’s Local Church Series.
8 replies on “Church 102 – A Further Step Forward”
[…] want to go back to the reference in my last post in regards to the ‘Hi and Fine’ conversation. It went something like […]
This is marvelous.Â Thank you…you said it exactly right.Â I’m sending this post link to many in my email address book.
Actually, “called out ones” is just the etymology of ‘ekklesia’. By the Hellenistic period, when the NT was written, it had come to mean just an assembly. It was the typical word in the Septuagint for the congregation in Israel. It didn’t really have any connotation anymore of being called out. I think it’s fine to see it as “called together”, but there’s no sense in the word by this time of an ekklesia being separated.
@Diane: I’ll let Scott know your enjoyment of the piece.
@Jeremy: Yeah I had let Scott know that I just take the term to mean “the assembly [of saints or christians, whatever]. Maybe he’ll listen to your plea more than my own Plymouth Brethren lament since that’s what we call all local churches. =)
In using the phrase ‘called out ones’ to describe ekklesia, I am not referring to a calling out in the sense of being separate from the world, but more in reference to being called together (or, as Rey said, assembled together).
But, I would say that you cannot have an assembly without people. Hence, I see church as first and foremost about people.
Which makes my Plymouth Brethren sentiments go all warm and fuzzy. PB’s see the term assembly as first and foremost about people. That’s why they call the buildings they meet either Halls or Chapels.
Rey, looks like we might be on the same page. Call CNN!
[…] What does all that mean? […]