A few weeks ago, we talked a bit about how we make 'gods' in our own image based on the story of the Golden Calf in Exodus. We do the same thing with the church. We try to fashion it into our image, too.
'Ekklesia' is a Greek word meaning 'to call out of'. It is the earliest word for the church, a called-out assembly of the people of God. So what is the church (and what isn't it?)? Our new series "Ekklesia" takes a deeper look at the church, not the institution or building but the redeemed people who gather in the name of Jesus.
Acts 2:42-47 gives us one of the earliest glimpses into what the assembly was like. Here's a paraphrase: "They devoted themselves to personal preferences, ideology and interests, to once-a-month communion, and to great entertainment. Everyone was feeling good, impressed by the lights, sound system, and clever wit of the speaker. All the believers were strangers to each other and looked after themselves well. They built their own kingdoms and amassed all the best toys. They came to church to sit among strangers for an hour whenever they could squeeze it into their busy schedules. They didn't know where each other lived but occasionally went to Applebee's with someone, quietly giving thanks for the food they didn't have to prepare. And they enjoyed their personal comfort and minimal commitment in the presence of all the people."
OK. Maybe I made that up.
Read the real Acts 2:42-47 and you'll see pretty much the opposite of what I've written above.
We are the called-out community of Christ. If we're chasing the same things society around us is chasing, we're probably neither called out nor Christ's. The New Testament church was devoted, centered on apostolic teaching, and committed to each other; they ate together often, praying with each other in one heart and mind; and they were in awe of what God was doing among them.
I've often thought the reason why we don't live like this is because we don't HAVE to live like this. We don't need each other, and we've created a church model that reflects that. We will need that kind of church again. We need it now.
So what is a NT church and what is it not?
It's not a concert, an entertainment center, or an activity center. We don't exist to compete with culture, providing a Jesus-themed alternative to the busy world.
It's not a building. Somewhere along the line, we stopped calling the called-out people 'church' and started calling our buildings by that name.
It's not the leadership. Yes, we can build on apostolic teaching, but let's not make the leadership the foundation for the church.
It's not a business, a marketplace, a social club, a political party, a museum, a denominational outpost, or your house.
We belong to Jesus. And as his, we get our identity as called-out people. So what is a church?
It is a house of prayer [Matthew 21:12-13]. Jesus got pretty upset with what the LORD's house had become. It is a place we hear from God; it is a place we speak to God and seek God.
It is the Body of Christ [Ephesians 4:11-13]. We embody Jesus to one another. Paul calls us the 'fullness of Christ'. In other words, each of us have a Spirit-given role, and none of us alone are the fullness of Christ. We need the Body for that.
It is family [Matthew 12:48-50]. There are dozens of scriptures that refer to the church as a family, and Jesus started it. Everyone belongs to Jesus who belongs to Jesus. I may be your third cousin twice removed who is cross-eyed from being kicked in the head by a mule, but I am still yours in Christ. We're family, but we're not perfect. You are my brothers and sisters.
We are ekklesia. Jesus has called us to worship, to live out the Word, and to be his witnesses. Worship, Word & Witness -- living as called-out ones -- will be the focus of our new series.
I love my church. When I say that, I'm talking about you.