A Guest Blog...by Frederick Tobun
At a time where countless numbers of people celebrate Christmas, it is placed upon us the responsibility to preach in and out of season the purpose and intent of the miraculous birth of the Son of God.
Within fellowships, communities and churches the proclamation of the prophet Isaiah will be read in the hearing of many. During this reading many minds will visit the scene of the nativity to reflect upon the baby born in the manger, the appearing of the heavenly host, the visits of the shepherds, the star at night and the wise men from the east.
For some enshrined before them will be the statues of the nativity, whilst for others a theatrical piece played out by ardent followers. This will be followed by music, dancing and merrymaking.
WHAT DOES NATIVITY MEAN?
The word nativity means “the event of being born” or the circumstances in which a child is born. Hence the word requires us to consider all the events during the birth of a child.
The reading of Isaiah 9:6 and the record of the nativity found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke provides us a revelation of the events taking place. These events together collectively describe a child being born and a son being given.
Many moons ago whilst reading this text I came upon the revelation which is so clearly distinguished by the prophet Isaiah. This began a journey from the child of the nativity to the son of the nativity. From a childrens story to history.
This meant that the typical characters and props associated with the meaning of the nativity changed from being just the foreground of religious christmas traditions into a sharper picture disclosing the richer understanding of God’s kingdom.
Why would the prophet make two statements about this monumental event? Why in one breath state a child is born and in another a son is given?
WHERE DO WE BEGIN?
The Old testament prophecies provide supporting evidence for these distinctions.
Numbers 24:17 states "I see him, but not now: I behold him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel"
Two sight’s are mentioned, I see him! The first natural and relating to the child's legitimate inheritance within the economy of Israel. I behold him! The second spiritual the revelation of who this child is as the Son of God and chosen King.
The writer goes on to state that what he saw was prophetic, what he wrote was a foretelling of future events. Hence this text would have been part of the inspiration of Isaiah's words.
To begin with we must come to appreciate the words used to introduce the distinctions. “Unto us” forcefully impress the relevancy and impact of the event on we who are in this world.
For whether the child is born or the son is given, both are unto us and drive home our responsibility to respond accurately. No one born from the line of Adam can disassociate themselves from the impact of the fulfillment of prophecy.
In addition the events recorded within the gospels pertaining to the prophecy provide ample guidance and teaching on how to approach the child, the son.
A STORY TOLD IN PARTS…
The significance of the nativity relates to appreciating all of the events which took place without reducing the narrative to a cliche of theatrical pieces. One thing I have learned is that history does not narrate well and there is a mastery involved in relaying history accurately from one generation to the next.
For many of us we have grown up with the nativity which focuses on the “birth of the child”. This majors on: baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, manger, angels, shepherds, star, wise men and gifts.
This nativity guided by the limitations of tradition creates an immature view which we haven’t as yet altogether grown up from.
The nativity that reflects the son has an altogether different approach and parallels the exodus and nativity of Moses. This majors upon:
These events tend to stand in the background of the first nativity and hence as a result reduce the importance and significance of the son being given.
THE WHOLE STORY TOLD…
When we step back to see the nativity in its entirety we cannot afford any longer to hold onto the immature romanticised perspectives of our traditions, but are forced to grapple with the gritty reality of faith by both “seeing” and “beholding”.
We are forced to come to terms with the fact that the christmas we know is not the christmas they experienced.
Faith in keeping with the Kingdom provokes us to see things as they are, whilst beholding what will be: Read Isaiah 60:2: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but (behold) the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you”
Here the prophet again provokes both the natural sight and the spiritual sight coming into harmony. We are not to ignore either, but rather ensure both are framed by the word of God. The shepherds and the wise men experienced what the prophet stated.
The shepherds were commanded by the angels to seek for the sign. They subsequently sought for a baby in a manger. Once found they testified to all of the savior's birth.
The wise men were commanded by prophecy to seek for a sign. They subsequently sought for the shining star which would lead them to the King in Bethlehem. Once found they gave gifts unto the King.
Both the shepherds and the wise men encapsulate the rich experience of encountering the fullness of Isaiah 6:9 and serve as an example of how to respond.
On the one hand the shepherds provoke us to testify of the savior's birth signifying the hope of waiting on the Lord for his promises. On the other hand the wise men provoke us to recognise the realization of the promise by practically honouring and serving the Lord with the fruit of our obedience and substance recognising his authority, divinity and sacrifice.
Looking past our traditions with their set times, places and events and beholding the truth of the nativity I wonder what this would be like today? Could the riches of Christ’s commonwealth be so manifest that it makes redundant the need for a Christmas day?
The famous carol written by the English hymn writer Isaac Watts and based on Psalm 98 conveys within the first and second verse the spirit of our worship.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Frederick Tobun is the founder of Restore Citizenship and serves as a community elder of the Islington fellowship. A digital communications professional, Frederick is passionate about reaching out with the message of kingdom citizenship and seeing the development of the Ekklesia within local communities.
I do a lot of talking about the ‘church as we know it’. If you follow my blogs, books, live teaching and other media, you hear me say that the ‘church’ will not be the same in a few years. It is in transition. But the question must be answered, ‘Where is it transitioning to?
I also speak often about the Greek word ekklesia. Sometimes I share it as though people thoroughly understand what I am talking about. In my excitement to show that Jesus never said He would build a church, I failed to clearly articulate His intentions. Within the framework of His intent is the revelation of where the coming transition is taking us.
It all began with the simple declaration, “upon this rock I will build my ekklesia”. Jesus had other word choices besides ekklesia. He could have said He would build His heiron, which is the Greek word translated as temple. Everybody in Jesus day would have identified with the temple. He could have also declared that He would build His synagogue. Both words would have been acceptable to the religious minds of that day. The temple and the synagogue were centers of Judaic religious activity.
Jesus used a word that had no religious connotations...
Jesus used a word that had no religious connotations – ekklesia. It was known in that day as an arm of the Roman government. He did not say He would build a church. Understanding this gives us a glimpse of where the church is transitioning.
The ekklesia was given specific authority by the government it represented. The Roman ekklesia could legislate, confer or deny citizenship, set policies and elect officials. Likewise, when Jesus declared He would build His version of the ekklesia, a similar authority would accompany it. Rather than representing the Roman government, His ekklesia would represent the Kingdom of Heaven. The authority it had would be a clear threat to the kingdom of darkness (Matthew 16:18-19).
The devil’s tactic to disrupt the Lord’s intent was to change the identity of the ekklesia. When the instructions were given to insert the English word church for ekklesia, the Body of Christ shifted from having an impact in the world, to an audience in a building. The Body of Christ took on a completely different identity. It was never intended to be a church.
...the Holy Spirit is bringing emphasis to the ekklesia the Lord originally proclaimed
Maybe this will give you a glimpse of what the coming transition is intended to produce. Over the past 400 plus years, the Lord has restored many things that had been stripped from His ekklesia. Critical doctrines and the ministry gifts were restored in preparation for this time. Unfortunately, they were restored and encased in a system totally foreign to their original purposes. Today, the Holy Spirit is bringing emphasis to the ekklesia the Lord originally proclaimed. Ekklesia is being restored. Its restoration will bring back the kingdom authority it originally had.
This is the first part of the coming transition. Church will be restored to ekklesia, and there is much more to come. Once we realize our identity, we can move into doing what is expected of it. Binding, loosing and establishing the footprint of the kingdom in the earth will once again become the norm. The gates of hades will not stand a chance against what Jesus said He would build.
If you are like me, you are looking forward to this powerful transition. Jesus is still building His ekklesia, with believers like you. Get ready, there is more to come.
P.S. Watch the latest episoded of 'Good Morning, Ekklesia!' Currently we are doing an indepth study on Ekklesia In The Word.
Transitioning from one thing to another can at times be challenging. When you see something beyond your current place, there becomes and inward drive to reach it. Between you an that destination you may encounter both giants and roadblocks. There is a difference between these two obstacles you must understand.
Roadblocks are inanimate deterrents to your destination. Imagine yourself traveling from one city to another and halfway there you encounter a sign that says the road you are on is closed. This is a roadblock. The sign did not tell you to discontinue your journey. Its presence only indicated that that road you were travelling was no longer available to you. A roadblock is clear indication that you must take another route.
Roadblocks are the loss of a job, an ally leaving you, an unexpected death, or some other trauma. As difficult as they may be, they do not mean the end of your journey. These events alert you to the need to pursue other paths to reach your destination. Simply put, roadblocks don’t stop you, they redirect you.
Giants are the voices that come to discourage and intimidate you. These are often people that accentuate your weaknesses and shortcomings. “You don’t have enough money!” “You don’t have a good education!” “That has never been done before!” “What makes you think you can do this?” “This is more than you can handle!” I am sure you can add your list of such discouragements you may have heard.
Giants cannot stop you. If you allow them, they will discourage or intimidate you to the point that you choose to quit. Giants must be destroyed. Goliath taunted David and tried Him, but David killed him. You too must kill the giants that try to stop you. It may mean separating from some friends. You may have to stop discussing your plans with naysayers. It means you will have to be selective from whom you get advice. You must destroy the voice of the giant.
I believe the church as we know it is in a time of transition. More and more people are awakening to the reality of ekklesia. Undoubtedly both roadblocks and giants will appear as we journey to the place God intended for us. The response to these obstacles will be your choice. I believe you will move forward in the power of the Lord! Follow these three steps:
1. Keep Your Sight In The Word of God It is easy to get distracted and potentially confused. The Word of God is your compass that will keep you moving in the right direction. Yes, you may zig when you intended to zag, but the Word of God will keep you on the right path (Psalms 17:5).
2. Listen To, But Don’t Embrace Your Critics Those who criticize you have no loyalty to your feelings. In their criticisms, they may reveal deficiencies you may need to address. Rather than allowing their negative words to stop you, correct the issues and move forward as a stronger, better you (Psalms 5:8; 27:11).
3. Pray On Your Feet I strongly believe in prayer. Scripture commands us to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1Thessalonians 5:17). To be in constant state of prayer suggests that many times we pray in motion. Even the idea of waiting on the Lord is not to suggest you are dormant. It means we increase our worship as we anticipate His direction (Isaiah 40:31). As you seek to transition, remember the words of the Apostle Paul “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14 KJV). Pressing means you are pushing forward.
Leaving church to become ekklesia can be achieve only as we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ. I believe you are among those who will demonstrate what Jesus meant when He declared “…upon this rock I will build by ekklesia...”. The Ekklesia Center is working diligently to provide you with additional tools to help you navigate this journey.
“How do you unchurch the church? How do you kill religion and tradition and stop it from spreading? How do you unteach the sound of the Hammond organ [that make some believe it is the presence of God]?
This is my paraphrase of a question recently asked on a Facebook post.
As a product of the church, I am very familiar with the ins and outs of its system. I have been a church musician from 10 years old, and I have served in nearly every capacity. Most recently, I have served as the pastor of a traditional church. I know church. I love the many wonderful relationships I have gained and still maintain.
Currently, I am leading the ‘church’ I have served for 28 years into becoming a network of house gatherings. I have experienced first-hand what it means to unchurch the churched. It is actually an attempt to recalibrate the mindset of people. Anybody can leave a sanctuary and meet in a living room. However, if WHAT we do is not infused with WHY we are doing it, then all we have done is change locations with no real purpose. The reality is that you can’t effectively unchurch anyone who still holds to a church mindset.
adherents that they believe they are correct in what they do. They use scripture to support traditions created by man (Mark 7:13). Their experiences are touted as spiritual validation (John 4:20). Emotionalism is confused with the real presence of the Lord. Becoming unchurched begins when you receive the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God!
The churches that appear to be growing have found a way to put on a bigger and better performance than the other churches in their vicinity. They draw in the crowds with polished praise teams, crisp musicians, dance troops and preaching that appeals to the senses. Their growth is more transfer evangelism than winning new converts. When their appeal wanes, the people go looking for the next spiritual thrill. I would like to offer 3 ways this can change.
1. Pray that believers see the truth
2. Remain steadfast in your resolve
3. Know that you are called
The ministry of The Ekklesia Center is to help guide believers into a firm understanding of what Jesus is building in the earth. Visit our website often to get more insights to help you in your journey.
About The Author
Tim Kurtz is the Founder of The Ekklesia Center. The purpose of this blog/vlog is to explore subjects that show how the mistranslation of ekklesia to church has impacted the Body of Christ. He has served in ministry over three decades amd is the author of several books. He and his wife Carolyn have been married 46 years and live in SC Michigan.