When I joined in the chorus of those teaching the importance of ekklesia, I anticipated some religious push back. In my book, Leaving Church Becoming Ekklesia, I outlined some of these responses.
There will be those who hear about ekklesia and set it aside as irrelevant. Some will consider the conversations around ekklesia as a new religious fad that will blow over in time. Some will see this as a threat and a movement intended to overthrow traditional ‘church systems’. They will consider ekklesia as contemporary heresy. There are those who will agree with the concept, but will have no interest in pursuing it. Finally, there will be many who grasp this and do everything they can to walk it out in their daily lives.
Recently, I read a concern that adds to this list. It had to do with evangelism, which I would agree is a legitimate issue. This was brought up in a Facebook stream in response to my blog, It’s Personal. There were two specific thoughts presented by the writer.
First, they stated that arguing about this issue of Church, Ekklesia or Kyriakon is not the way to salvation. They suggested that we should spend our time spreading the Gospel to the lost, and helping them to serve God. Second, the writer felt that comparing ekklesia to church only serves to cause division. It occurred to me that this line of thinking may be shared by many others.
First, let’s make sure you understand that kyriakon is the Greek from which church is translated.
No one I know is implying that teaching the difference between church/kyriakon and ekklesia will cause a person to accept the Lord. That is not the primary purpose of why this is being taught. It is because most believers don’t know their true identity. Most don’t clearly understand what Jesus really said or intended at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-18). Most believers have no clue as to how the word ‘church’ was inserted into our religious vocabulary (even though Jesus never used that word).
Most sincere and dedicated believers will tell you how important it is to be a member of a local church. They have no idea that they are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, who are called out to serve in the Lord’s ekklesia. Unfortunately, the idea of Kingdom has been encased in the ‘church’ system.
The Church and Soul Winning
For centuries, people have serve God to the best of their abilities in the system we know as ‘church’. The structure and very nature of the ‘church’ has crippled the spread of the Gospel. The first century saints took the gospel everywhere. Their ministry work was to ‘go-out and reach their families, neighborhoods, cities, etc. Believers were actively involved spreading of the gospel.
The advent of the church created a ‘come to’ mindset. People had to ‘come to’ a building to connect with God. There they watched as ‘professional clergy’ performed rituals and solemn ceremonies. The believers became spectators, who early on, were even forbidden access to the scriptures. The gospel was not spread – it was contained.
In the tradition I grew up in, joining the ‘church’ was equal to being saved. Leading people to the Lord was often consummated by joining the local church. Today, I still hear people validate a person’s salvation by the fact they are members of a local church assembly.
Regularly attending the ‘church’ meetings, possibly taking new member or discipleship classes, giving financially, and learning the ins and outs of the denominational system, is what it takes to be successful in the church. Most end up spending their entire Christian life as spectators in the church system. They may be involved in small groups, choirs or various auxiliaries, but generally speaking, their role is to sit and watch. Leaders in the church system govern from the top down. Jesus never intended this for His followers.
The Ekklesia and Soul Winning
believer, you are first called out of darkness into the Kingdom of our Lord (Colossians 1:13; 2Peter 1:10-11). Then, the Holy Spirit empowers us with gifts that are to be used to expand the Body of Believers, and the Kingdom of God in the earth. (Romans 12:4; 1Corinthians 12:1-11; Ephesians 4:1).
The ekklesia Jesus declared He would build would form organically, through the Holy Spirit. In its’ inception, believers would gather from house to house strengthening and encouraging one another. In the Lord’s ekklesia, soul winning is coupled with empowerment. Leaders in the Lord’s ekklesia serve from the bottom, not from the top. It takes a different type of spiritual strength to serve from the bottom. They serve as a support system that provides the foundation and protection for the masses of believers pursuing God’s call on their lives.
Does ekklesia cause division?
The writer in the Facebook stream suggested that teaching about ekklesia will create more division. Division is not created by what is taught, it is created by the responses to what is taught.
Depending on the source you choose to cite, there are literally thousands of denominations in the United States alone. Each encamp around a belief that makes them distinct from the other groups. They can say they are all Christians, but division around doctrinal beliefs - is still division. It doesn’t matter if we have our little ‘fellowship’ meetings if remain separated to the point of ineffectiveness.
Here is my point. Ekklesia will not create anymore division than what already exists. It is my belief, that if we embrace what Jesus is building, and get down to the business of expanding the Kingdom of God in the earth, then our petty differences will be swallowed up in divine purpose.
Is it necessary? What do you see as the pros and cons of understanding ekklesia? TLK