7 Minute Read
Over the past weeks, there have been many articles announcing the death of pastors who have died from the coronavirus. One denomination has been hit very hard with several of their bishops dying. From the articles I have read, this has impacted several denominational streams. Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Nondenominational, Charismatic, have suffered losses of ministry leaders. No group can claim its doctrinal stance protected them more than some other group.
Is there something we need to understand? Is God saying something that we refuse to hear? My own thoughts on this run the gambit. I have learned however, that my opinions mean nothing outside of the Word of God. Therefore, I want to approach this delicate matter from what I can glean from scripture.
A pastor’s death is newsworthy. It makes good headlines in a secular society when a prominent pastor dies. But let us put this in perspective.
There have been over 56,000 deaths attributed to the coronavirus as of this writing. Pastors, ministers and Bishops are only one segment of the total. I would suggest they represent much less than one percent of the total deaths. There have also been doctors, nurses, policemen, schoolteachers, postal workers, military personnel, and other such categories that have suffered their share of COVID-19 related deaths. Singling out ‘clergy’ simply makes for good headlines.
At the same time, as believers, the death of a ministry leader hits home. It strikes at the soul of religious hierarchy. Suddenly our iconic view of them becomes distorted in an unspoken way. . Something in our hierarchal pecking order makes this feel out of place.
I am reminded of Isaiah who saw the Lord after Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1). Please, please, please don’t think that I am suggesting that ministers who have died were willfully drawing people after themselves. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of these ‘clergy’ leaders would point their congregation to Jesus Christ.
My point is that the church system as we know it has elevated the role of ‘clergy’ to the point that people subconsciously see their pastor as invincible. Thus, when a pastor dies, people suffer a dual loss. First, there is the loss of the leader. Second, there is the loss of emotional contact. Not only is the leader gone, but also the ability to lean on them for ‘spiritual’ support.
Is COVID-19 killing ‘clergy’?
The reality is that this has taken the lives of some ministry leaders. I am saddened like everyone else about this. Yet, the question to be answered is whether COVID-19 is killing ‘clergy’ – not Bishops, pastors or ministry leaders. Confused? Let me explain.
In Chapter three of my book, Leaving Church Becoming Ekklesia, I outlined five necessary transitions that will impact ‘church as we know it’. This chapter I titled Necessary Transitions, dealt with the coming changes to the infrastructure of the ‘church’ system. In chapter five, I presented six characteristics of a major transition. I wrote that this was written so that you don’t have to be blindsided by the coming changes.
What is changing, and what are we transitioning to? I believe we are entering the early stages of ‘the day of the saints’. There is a coming shift when God will raise up ordinary believers to impact the earth from the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 6:10; 16:18-19). Remember, the ministry gifts in Ephesians 4 were given to equip the saints for the work of ministry. When you read all of Isaiah 61, the passage Jesus read in the synagogue (Luke 4:18-19), it declares a people called ‘trees of righteousness’. More importantly, they are empowered to build, raise up and repair (Isaiah 61:3-4).
This transition has a direct impact on what we have called ‘clergy’. The church as we know it today has two classes of people, the clergy and the laity. Greg Ogden wrote in his book, Unfinished Business:
Like ekklesia was mistranslated as church, by the 12th century, the ‘clergy’ became a word erroneously used to denote a class of people who were more spiritually astute than the so-called laity. Today we refer to Bishops, pastors and ministry leaders as clergy.
However, a study of the Greek word that clergy was supposedly translated from, reveals a different story. Kleros in Greek never implied a distinction between an upper and lower class in the kingdom. Kleros conveys the full inclusion of the Gentiles as equal partners in the benefits of the gospel. Kleros refers to the inheritance in all the saints (Acts 26:18; Colossians 1:12; 1Peter 5:1-3).
COVID-19 has shaken the ‘church system’. More and more believers are waking up to the reality that God has design and purpose for them. The concept of ‘clergy’ has begun to slip. The hierarchal system that sustains the contemporary clergy concept has suffered a powerful blow. As the Lord’s ekklesia rises, leadership will become aligned with divine patterns. As the Lord’s ekklesia rises in the earth, clergy will shift from being a spiritual upper class to kleros, which is a body of believers who have inherited the benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven. Are you ready for this transition?
The church as we know it will be drastically different in the next few years. You don't have to be blindsided by the changes.
Many churches were blindsided by the coronavirus.
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8 Minute Read
Adversity brings out things often hidden in the heart. The coronavirus pandemic is exposing some dangerous things in an already divided ‘church’.
Before the pandemic and the subsequent lock-down, the church as we know it was already divided by three things.
Ideology – this is the division created by churches who follow conservative or liberal politics. Churches have lowered themselves to follow Democratic or Republican views. Many have become the mouthpiece for political candidates rather than the Kingdom. The result is a ‘church’ divided by religious groups bowing to worldly thoughts.
Race – In some ‘churches’ this is blatant as some pride themselves as catering to a specific racial group. Others speak of racial unity, but every week they worship in services predominately filled with one particular race. Some congregations are more integrated than others, but isn’t is sad we are still referencing today’s churches as predominately Black, White, Hispanic, or some other racial group.
Doctrine – At Antioch, the believers were first called Christians to identify them as separate from the world. Today, we call ourselves Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and the like to separate ourselves from each other. In the first century, the only thing that divided believers was geography. Today we camp around our doctrinal positions and defend them against intrusion from other belief systems
At Antioch, the believers were first called Christians to identify them as separate from the world. Today, we call ourselves Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal and the like to separate ourselves from each other.
Even within the categories of ideology, race and doctrine there are deeper divisions too extensive to cover in this blog.
As this coronavirus pandemic has spread, it has awakened another line of division created by pride masquerading as faith. Many states have issued ‘stay at home’ mandates. Nationally social distancing has become a new phrase previously unheard of. This shuts down places where large amounts of people gather. Schools, restaurants, bars, casinos, shopping malls, factories, and of course ‘churches’ have been impacted.
n the midst of this, there are church leaders who have chosen to continue to have their regular services. I am not here to judge their decisions, but I do want to highlight a new form of division further fracturing the Body of Christ. There are three categories I have noticed in the past few weeks.
First, there are the ‘faith’ groups. These are churches who continue to meet as usual claiming their faith in God protects them from the coronavirus. Implicit in what they claim is that churches that do not gather are lacking in faith. Even within the churches that continue to meet, some of their parishioners chose to stay at home. Unfortunately, they found themselves being referred to as having a lack of faith, weak, or at worst disobeying their leadership.
The second group are the politically defiant. They believe the government has overreached its authority when churches are required to limit their gatherings. I have heard such proponents of this line of thinking claim a myriad of political views to justify their beliefs. Like the faith group, the politically defiant imply that those who follow anything suggested by the government are acquiescing to governmental control.
The third group are those who are following state and local guidelines. They choose to ‘social distance’. Because of this, the surge in use of some social media platforms has quadrupled in the last few weeks. Pastors who were never on Facebook before are now broadcasting LIVE every Sunday. ZOOM, Free Conference Call and the like have added thousands of new subscribers. Outdoor drive-in services are being held all around the country. In other words, this final group is looking for ways to ‘gather’ within the guidelines given. But this group is also succumbing to a form of division. Some are claiming that by following the social distancing guidelines, they are proving to be ‘wiser’ than those who don’t. In other words, they have subtly made themselves an elite group of people who have faith, understand government, but who use ‘common sense’.
The coronavirus pandemic has added more division to an already weak and divided church system. It really saddens me to hear one side demonizing the other.
Finger pointing proves that it is both structurally weak and far off its foundation in Christ. You may ask me, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” I don’t have a perfect answer to this, but one thing I do know, the growing divisiveness in the ‘church system’ created by this pandemic is not of God (1Corinthians 1:10-13). Something is amiss when all these fractions are claiming their view is the Godly response. Somebody, somewhere has missed it.
When we read Matthew 12:25, our focus is usually on the results of division in the kingdom, city and house. But I took note of how this passage began. “And Jesus knew their thoughts...” In John 2:24, Jesus did not commit Himself to those following Him because “...he knew all men”. And we know that the Word has the ability to discern between the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
It appears that the pressure of this pandemic has exposed the hearts of many in the church world. It has exposed those who are shallow, prideful, and fearful. We all need to examine ourselves, but more importantly allow the Lord to examine us (Psalms 26:2; 2Corinthians 13:5).
Where does the ekklesia fit into all this? I believe this pandemic is training ground for the emerging ekklesia – the Lord’s original intent for His people. Rather than taking political, religious or prideful views of our choices, we must sit at the feet of Jesus. When you consider the authority entrusted to the ekklesia to bind and loose – to prevail over hades – and to have use of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven – this is a perfect moment for the ekklesia to have impact. The ekklesia must learn to be the voice of the Lord in this difficult time. Is it possible? I believe it is
Don’t be blindsided by current events. Learn more about the ekklesia and God’s plan for you!
5 Minute Read
Church as we know it’ will not be the same when this is over. The question is, ‘should it remain the same’? Regardless of the ‘source’ of this virus, it has served to shake thie foundations of economic, social, political and religious structures. This is something I have been sharing (in writing) since 2010. We need to take a good look at 'shaking' according to the Word of God. It has some interesting and possibly uncomfortable ramifications.
Think in terms of Noah for a moment. What he built had the capacity to float in the flood. Remember, the flood was not sent by the devil, and that God gave Noah the design of the ark he was to build (Genesis 6:13-17). The ark was not of Noah’s design. Today we are facing a ‘virus flood’ that many church systems are finding it difficult to stay afloat. If the existence of what we have built in the past is being challenged in this crisis, it may suggest that what we have built was not designed for the flood we are in.
I believe we are in the early stages of a global realignment of the church as we know it. I struggle with trying not to sound like a doomsayer. I am really a positive guy. The reality is that I believe the coronavirus is the first of several global things that will unravel the church system as we know it. It is time to set our eyes on the purpose and design of the Kingdom. It is the only source of stability we can depend on in the days to come (Hebrews 12:28-29). Blessings!
Don't be blindsided again!
I can honestly say that I love the people serving in what we know as ‘the church’. But the fact remains that Jesus never said or intended to build a church.
Even now as some read this, I am sure there are questions as to why this is such a big deal. This writing cannot delve into the depths of this subject, rather this serves to alert us to an issue that must be addressed. For deeper study on this subject,
I encourage you to check out some of the Study Starters on my website www.TheEkklesiaCenter.org,
or get a copy of my book LEAVING CHURCH BECOMING EKKLESIA.
Here's my point...
The coronavirus blindsided the church. As a believer, you should never be caught off guard. Don’t be blindsided.
This weeks blog post was written a year ago by my friend, Frederick Tobun. His perspective of the nativity is poignant and relevant to the 21st century. I am honored to provide his contribution to you this week.
After reading this post make sure to visit his enlightening website RESTORE CITIZENSHIP.
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"
- The occupation of Israel under foreign rule.
- The corrupt overlord King Herod.
- The religious and governmental suppression of the people.
- The tragic dumbness of Zechariah the priest.
- The agony of Elizabeth’s labour for John.
- The burden of census taking and taxes.
- The shame of the “virgin” birth upon Mary’s household.
- The damaged reputation of Joseph as a result of a perceived adulterous wife to be.
- The danger of losing a daughter (Mary) to stoning.
- The hostile sixty eight mile journey by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
- The shunning of Joseph in his hometown of Bethlehem.
- The unplanned exodus for the family to Egypt.
- The infanticide of children up to two years of age by King Herod.
We are forced to come to terms with the fact that the christmas we know is not the christmas they experienced.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Jesus used a word that had no religious connotations...
...the Holy Spirit is bringing emphasis to the ekklesia the Lord originally proclaimed
“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]?
...you can’t effectively unchurch anyone who still holds to a church mindset.
Harriet Tubman is reported to have said, “I freed a thousand slaves – but I could have freed many more had they known they were slaves”. The church system has so clouded the minds of its
Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus that “The eyes of [their] understanding [would be] enlightened… (Ephesians 1:18). Once a person sees the truth – they cannot un-see it. Once they experience the presence of the Lord without the filters of religious pageantry – they will want no substitutes. Once they get the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God – they will run from sectarian depictions of Him.
Those of us who say we have been delivered from churchianity, the burden on us is to live it out. This is more than rhetoric – it is our responsibility. There is a great temptation to give up when you are faced with conflict, ridicule and accusations. Hold fast and in time, the Lord will vindicate you.
Since we began the process of transitioning four years ago, we have been misunderstood and at times mischaracterized. Yet, by remaining steadfast, those among us are growing in both the Word of God and in covenant relationships. We were greatly encouraged when in the last year, two other ministries in our area have embraced what the Lord is doing in us. We are prayerfully coming together with them under the headship of Jesus Christ. It is clear that the Lord is orchestrating a regional network of believers. By remaining steadfast, we are seeing Jesus build His ekklesia His way. Everyone involved is committed to Him more than the traditions of the past.
You are called out to impact the world you live in. You have a significant place in the Lords ekklesia. People are watching you. Walk worthy of the vocation that you are called into (Ephesians 4:1-3). Remain humble before the Lord. Stay focused. Enjoy this wonderful season of growth in your life.
I recently read a Facebook post where 2Corinthians 6:17 was quoted. “…come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” The writers implied that those who have received the ‘revelation’, must separate themselves from those who are still in the institutional church.
To use 2Corinthians 6:17 to imply some spiritual superiority over other believers is pure spiritual arrogance.
Many are trying to build their own kingdoms, based on a ‘we’re right – you are wrong’ platform. Instead of fostering covenant relationships, they are creating
What you build must have focus and purpose and above all revelation.
Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites with 300 soldiers is a familiar story of faith, obedience and the strategic power of the Lord. When the Lord called him, Israel was already outnumbered.
And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.' "Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.'" And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. (Judges 7:2-3 NKJV)
The future of ekklesia will be contingent upon a pure cadre of believers who are fully committed to its advance.
- First, many like to be the first to adopt some new revelation. They are like the Athenians who ‘spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21). They attend all the conferences and learn the lingo but are easily distracted when the next new thing appears.
- A second group understands ekklesia but try to pour this new wine into the old wine skins. They find safety trying to sew new cloth onto old garments (Mark 2:21-22). They can’t see the damage they cause by following this practice. Ekklesia gets reduced to a program or an event in their church that they can promote or eliminate at will.
- The last group simply follow the crowd. They attach themselves to the most popular group, without ever becoming loyal to it. They are the first to abandon it when trouble, confusion or conflicts arise.With all these groups, some form of pride lurks in the background. When you expose their fears, many will ‘go home’ to the safety of their religious traditions.
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.