Sitting in a Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963, Martin Luther King penned a poignant letter to the religious leaders who felt the timing of his current boycott was inappropriate. He challenged them for their views, which are eerily similar to opinions being voiced today. Generally, it seems as though those in the class of people being boycotted, feel it is their right to dictate the terms of engagement for the boycotter.
This blog however is not about boycotts. It’s about what we have known as ‘the church’. As you will see in Dr. Kings’ letter, the church and ekklesia are inexplicably connected.
Over the past several weeks I have been teaching a series relating to the mistranslation of the Greek word ekklesia, into the English word church. The effects of this switch have had enormous impact on the Body of Christ. Sadly, because ‘church’, and all it we have come to believe it is, has been so deeply engrained into us, that we have been blinded to the damage it has caused.
The historical truth relating to ekklesia is beginning to rise to the surface. Numerous books, including my own, have been written on the subject. Several prophets have been declaring that ekklesia will arise in this season. There are numerous Facebook groups centered solely on ekklesia. It is becoming easier to find literature on the subject. What has all this to do with Dr. King’s letter from 1963?
A friend recently recommended that I read the entire Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I was amazed to see that Dr. King apparently had some insight into the difference between ‘church’ and ekklesia. This became evident in the following excerpt.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world.
There are 3 themes in these two paragraphs that resemble the state of the ‘church as we know it’ today.
The judgment of God is upon the church as never before. The millennials are abandoning the ‘church system’ in record numbers. If this was true in 1963, it is more so today. We live in a politically dysfunctional, racially charged, socially inept and morally deficient world. Rather than being a voice of righteousness, the contemporary ‘church’ has taken sides with world groups on critical issues. As Dr. King concluded then, today it is considered as an irrelevant social club, with no meaning for the 21st century.
…organized religion [is] too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world…, wrote Dr. King. The church is more focused on survival than it is serving. They fight each other to preserve their doctrinal distinctions. They invest in huge buildings, that only serve to contain people. What is considered evangelism has the unspoken goal of filling the pews more than empowering God’s people. Even the modern catch phrase of ‘equipping the saints’ is little more than training people to serve within the system.
…the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. Even though he seemed to equate ekklesia as ‘the inner spiritual church, and, the church within the church’, it was clear that he recognized a different level of power resident in it. He wrote of the true ekklesia being the hope of the world. As the Holy Spirit is bringing more insight into the Lord’s ekklesia, I too believe that He will use the ekklesia to bring hope to the world.
We are learning that the Lord’s ekklesia and the ‘church’ are not the same thing. History proves that the word church is a mistranslation of the word ekklesia. The concept of church, from its inception was to reinforce a system of controlling people through an intricate hierarchal religious government. Nothing Jesus declared at Caesarea Philippi was intended for what we now call ‘church’
The ekklesia, not the church, is built upon the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God. It was to the ekklesia, not church, that Jesus declared that the Gates of Hades would not be able to prevail against it. It was to the ekklesia, not the church, that Jesus gave the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the ekklesia, not the church, that has been given divine legislative authority to bind and loose on earth, those things that have been bound and loosed in Heaven (Matthew 16:16-19).
The ekklesia, not the church, is the ‘pillar and ground of truth’ (1Timothy 3:15). Yes, it is called to provide the moral foundation for society. The ekklesia, not the church, is commissioned make known the wisdom of God to principalities and powers in heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). It is the believers that make up the ekklesia that carries and demonstrates the authority of the Kingdom of God in the earth (Matthew 24:14). Five years and eight days after writing this letter, Dr. Martin Luther King would be assassinated while standing on the balcony at the Lorrain Hotel in Montgomery, Alabama. His letter from the Birmingham jail was in many ways prophetic. His insight regarding ekklesia was appropriate for the time, but it serves to alert us that there was, and is a difference between ekklesia and church.
The world today is in trouble. It will take courageous believers who are willing to swim against the current, to proclaim that the ekklesia that Jesus said He would build, and that Dr. King wrote about is rising. Jesus is poised to demonstrate solutions to the political, racial, social and economic woes in the earth. The first challenge will not be those things, but rather finding the courage to walk away from the religious system – church – that Jesus never intended. Maybe the following quote from Dr. King is appropriate to consider:
Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.
As we celebrate the life and legacy of this great civil rights hero, let us also take note of the seed he left us. The seed of ekklesia, the hope of the world.
There is not a month that passes wherein I don’t meet some individual or group that expresses their dissatisfaction with the ‘church as we know it’. More and more, people are searching for something beyond the programs, events and endless fundraisers.
Some common themes I hear people say is, “I am tired of the same old thing”, or “I want to do something different”, or “There must be more”. The laments are usually followed by the individual resigning themselves to the fact that they are stuck in a religious system they don’t like.
This dilemma reminds me the relationship between David, Jonathan and Saul. Their relationship is similar to what is happening in the ‘church world’ today. For the sake of clarity, allow me to portray them as representatives of the traditional church system (Saul), the current move of God in the earth (David), and those who love what God is doing, but remain connected to the traditional system (Jonathan).
Saul represents the traditional church system
Saul represents the traditional church system. He is a reflection of ‘church as we know it’. From the onset, his very anoint-
ing was man made. The bible states that Samuel used a flask of oil to anoint Saul. A flask is a shallow bowl type utensil. Basically, it is a bottle. The point is that Saul was anointed from desires of people, not from the will of God.
The contemporary church system cannot be found in scripture. It is a system that placates the desires of men (1Samuel 8:4-22). It is hierarchal and self-serving (1Samuel 13:8-14). It blames the people for areas of its dysfunction (1Samuel 15:20-21, 24). And regardless of its ineffectiveness, the church system desires to be touted and honored (1Samuel 15:30).
David represents the present move of God in His people
Let’s look at David. He comes on the scene when Samuel anoints him to be king. He was the unconsidered
son of Jesse, and the youngest of seven sons. He was actually Saul’s replacement, even though Saul was oblivious to what was taking place (1Samuel 16:1). David represents the present move of God in His people.
Unlike Saul, David was anointed with a ‘horn of oil’. The horn was most likely from a sacrificed ram. David’s anointing came through the shedding of blood. His anointing had the seal of heaven upon it. David was God’s choice, not man’s.
David represents a shift in the spirit. The moment he was anointed, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and simultaneously left Saul (1Samuel 16:13-14). This is significant. I believe a similar shift is taking place today. I believe God is shifting the body of Christ back to his original intent. This goes far beyond the church becoming ekklesia, it is God’s people fulfilling the mandate He gave them in the Garden of Eden to be fruitful, to multiply, replenish and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). It then becomes the ekklesia Jesus declared He would build (Matthew 16:18).
David’s rise to the throne was anything but normal. He went from serving as Saul’s personal musician and armor bearer (1Samuel 16:15-23) to killing Goliath (1Samuel 17:48-21). He then scarcely avoided being killed by Saul (1Samuel 18:10), and spent years running from Saul and his assassins (1Samuel 19:15, 18; 20:1).
Space will not permit me to cover the see-saw relationship that existed between Saul and David. But I did find it interesting that the bible said the Saul feared David because the Lord was with him (1Samuel 18:12, 29). I am beginning to see glimpse of similar traits today. Some in the traditional church system are challenged by the advent of ekklesia. As we gain more insight to this word, it will demand that we realign ourselves with scripture to live out the Lord’s command.
This brings us to Jonathan. He was Saul’s son (1Samuel 13:16), but David’s covenant friend (1Samuel 18:1). He represents those who see and love what God is doing, but don’t have the courage to disconnect from where they are. They want the fresh move of God in their life, but cannot bring themselves to disconnect from their religious tradition.
[Jonathan] represents those who see and love what God is doing, but don’t have the courage to disconnect from where they are
Each morning I do a 20-minute teaching on Facebook Live. I am amazed to find so many people watching from all around the world. It is truly humbling. I am also ama-
zed at some of the people who have contacted me privately. Each have indicated how much they enjoy each broadcast, but they also made it clear that they cannot make their feelings known publicly for fear of repercussions from the ‘church’ they attend.
This is The Jonathan Church. They love what God is doing, but are so attached to their current religious system that they are paralyzed and unable to move. The tragedy of the ‘Jonathans’ is that when Saul died, Jonathan died with him (1Samuel 31:6). This, I fear will be the fate of many today. They are so vested in their current traditional church system, that when it falls, they will fall with it.
At one point, David was followed by a gang of men who were distressed, in debt and discontented (1Samuel 22:2). This sounds like many church members I’ve encountered. They are dissatisfied and disillusioned with where they are. They too need to follow David (the current move of God). Those who do, will become known as David’s mighty men with power and might. (1Chronicles 11:10-11).
Jesus is still building His ekklesia. He is building with those who have the revelation that He is the Christ, Son of the Living God. He is not building with the wavering, or double-minded.
I believe there will be a line of demarcation set in the earth. Malachi prophesied of a season when those who serve God, and those who don’t will be clearly identified (Malachi 3:16-18). My question to you is, where do you stand? It is time for you to align yourself with either Saul (the traditional church system), or David (the current move of God). I challenge you not to be a ‘Jonathan’. Decide which where you stand.
Jesus committed the 'keys of the Kingdom of Heaven' to His ekklesia. It was obvious from the start, that the ekklesia and the kingdom would be indelibly linked.
I am honored to share this blog post with you written by my friend, Myron Mason. He eats, sleeps and drinks the Kingdom. I believe you will be blessed by what he has to say.
At the end of this blog, there is a link to connect to our latest podcast. It is a great interview with Myron. You don't want to miss it.
Kingdom Priority by Myron Mason
When I hit the “proverbial wall” spiritually by truly repenting and ridding my life of idols, God began to reveal secrets to me beyond the gift of salvation; secrets about the reign of God's Kingdom in my life. God showed me that knowledgeable things I had learned were not all I needed to know.
God revealed to me what I had lost (after Adam’s fall). Jesus’ message was never to scare me into Heaven but to encourage me. He wanted to RESTORE me because I was made in God's image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-28).
God told me that satan's scheme was to steal my identity and turn me into a religious puppet so others that satan had misled could misinform me. Other people didn't have a clue as to what God had put on the inside of me; nevertheless, they thought they had the authority to tell me what God wanted me to do. This would cause me to covet the institution containing titles, pomp, and prestige and what it stood for and not GOD’S PRIORITY WHICH WAS HIM AND HIS KINGDOM.
Satan never wanted me to study and recognize that I am a container of God's Glory as I walk holy before the Lord. Eventually, I forgot my purpose and the assignment that came with it. “Where there is no revelation (VISION), the people cast off restraint” (Proverbs 29:18).
When you become free in Christ, your religious robes are discarded and you put on the new man which is renewed in the knowledge of Him that created you. God's ORIGINAL INTENT for man was being revealed to me “Behold I long for your precepts (original thoughts), revive me in your righteousness” (Psalm 119:40).
The Kingdom of God should reign in every believer because it was Jesus original message –“The Kingdom is at hand”; but man's religious “churchianity” hinders many from walking in it (Matthew 23:13). Hosea 4:6 says, “MY PEOPLE are destroyed for a lack of knowledge”!
May the body of Christ begin to ask God for what HIS PRIORITIES are...
May the body of Christ begin to ask God for what HIS PRIORITIES are and proceed to move away from bondage found in religion and tradition.
Jesus saved us not for us to go to heaven, only (John 17:15); but to display heaven on earth as He did “…as my Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21). Re-discover the Kingdom within, that Kingdom which God originally gave us. The Kingdom that promotes and utilizes the Holy Spirit as the early church did.
The word “Repent” means to think high thoughts, for people to change their thinking. “Coming up higher” means to not settle for the Status Quo of those who aren't pressing in. God has something to reveal to His remnant in this hour and it, diametrically, opposes what we are practicing today. That remnant is called the Ekklesia!
When I originally heard of the ‘Ekklesia’ from my friend, Tim Kurtz, I just listened to what he had to say. My spirit was moved; I knew it had to be more; however, I could never put my thoughts into words like he had.
So, I began to connect the dots; I read Isaiah 9:6-7, how Heaven’s government would be upon Jesus’ shoulders. Then, I read Jesus’ first declaration in Matthew 4:17 that the Kingdom’s government had arrived. When Jesus told Peter, “…Upon this rock I will build my CHURCH and the gates of hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), somehow, that didn’t seem to give a true identification of who this CHURCH was; so, when I learned that what Jesus really meant was a government term it made me smile.
Finally, revelation came like never before; Jesus’ followers were given the approval as ambassadors!
In Jesus’ days, the Ekklesia in the first century meant a ruling governmental council with the authority to establish policies, legislate, confer, deny citizenship, or to elect officials.
I had heard of that word “council” in the scriptures before (the Sanhedrin council) so I looked it up. They consisted of 71 members: scribes, elders, prominent members of the highly priestly families and the high priest, the president of the assembly.
So, it appeared to me that there would be a conflict when Jesus began to make disciples (disciplined learners) on what it meant to be an ambassador, a citizen of heaven’s culture. He was in all actuality training them to become the ruling council, the Ekklesia, to speak to the authorities that be.
I recall in Acts 4:6 when Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest were gathered together at Jerusalem began to ask Peter and John by what power or what name had they healed the impotent man; the Ekklesia, Jesus was building was so much greater than those of the religious rule of His day. The Ekklesia had the power to heal and make men whole who had previously been doomed to suffer the ailment they had for the rest of their lives.
The Ekklesia are given keys to the Kingdom of heaven; whatever they will bind (forbid) declare to be improper and unlawful on earth will have (already) been bound in heaven, and whatever they will loose (permit) on earth will have (already) been loosed in heaven.
In other words, the Ekklesia is an extension of Jesus’ Ministry, mission while on earth, because it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32) so we can become representatives of the government of heaven on earth!
Myron R. Mason is a Kingdom Coach and Minister. For 30 years he has been the Chief Board Operator at WDCX-FM Radio 99.5 FM (Crawford Broadcasting). He has served in the United States Navy, and served on the National Peace Keeping Force in Beirut Lebanon 1983. He lives in Niagara Falls, New York with his wife, Dr. Veronica Mason. They have three children.
Why is it that whenever God does something new, only a few people seemed to grasp it?
Fresh revelation never fits into the current status quo. Fresh revelation often challenges our religious comfort zones and forces us to re-think patterns and belief systems. True revelation often produces conflicts.
Those who have a vested interest in the current traditions and religious system are many times the most vocal against the new revelation. It was the religious leaders who resisted Jesus and the apostles (John 11:47-48; Acts 14:1-4). Jesus himself pointed out that there is only one force, one stronghold that “sets aside” and “nullifies” the revealed will of God – human traditions (cf. Mark 7:1-23; cf., Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, p. 42).
And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17-18)
To some, fresh revelation is no more than ‘religious information’. These people often have a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude. They ‘take it’ if they receive some personal benefit, but ‘leave it’ if they have to leave their comfort zones. They forget that God does not give suggestions. He expects us to obey His Word. Our comfort is not His motivation – the accomplishment of His will is.
In the last days, God promised that He would pour out His Spirit upon ALL flesh. The evidence will be dreams, visions and prophecy. Some of the prophetic utterances is the release of fresh insight into the purposes of God for this season. Pouring out His Spirit is 'God-Speaking' His purpose for the His people.
His purpose has already been revealed in scripture (Genesis 1:28; Ephesians 3:10-11), however how it will be manifested is being released as we are able to handle it. What we consider 'fresh revelation' is in fact the unveiling of God's already established will for this generation. The problem is that we often become so enamored with the last revelation that we become blinded to any new truth.
...fresh revelation that is new to us has always been in the mind of God
Again, fresh revelation that is new to us has always been in the mind of God. He desires “…to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the begin-
ning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:9). Our carnal nature, our traditions, our fear of losing our position in the 'church system', and satan often blind us from seeing what God is saying. God will never stop revealing His purposes and His will. You must decide if you will hear and obey.
The 'church as we know it' is in transition. The Barna Group has done research showing a growing restlessness among believers in the traditional church. Two of their articles that explore ‘church attendance’ and the growing attendance among those who gather from house to house. In the mind of many, there is something missing in the what they know as 'church'. People are seeking a more meaningful experience.
Is there something missing?
Yes, what has been missing is the understanding of ekklesia. It is what Jesus actually said he would build. It is a body of believers that that Jesus declared the Gates of Hades would not be able to overcome. It is His ekklesia, that is governed by elders, developed by ministry gifts, and where the believers primarily gather in homes rather than dedicated buildings (Acts 2:46; 14:23; Ephesians 4:11-12). It is where the Kingdom Mandate is a lifestyle (Genesis 1:28). Ekklesia has always been in the mind of God, even though to us it may seem to be new.
What causes us to miss all that God is pouring out? It is our traditions and our flesh. For the natural man is not able to take in the things of the Spirit of God: for they seem foolish to him, and he is not able to have knowledge of them, because such knowledge comes only through the Spirit (1Corinthians 2:14 Bible in Basic English). Fresh revelation regarding ekklesia is being released by God through apostles and prophets (Ephesians 3:5). I am one of many with a mandate to release this revelation in the earth. You must determine how much your traditions rule you. Only you can determine how you will respond to what God is speaking.
The Apostle Paul prayed that your eyes will be open to see all that God is doing in the earth today (Ephesians 1:17-20). Are you committed to obeying God at all cost. I believe you are. Yes, the revelation being released in the earth regarding ekklesia may be new to you, but rest assured that God has your best interest in his heart. How will you respond? TLK
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
The very nature of the ekklesia requires active participation
The very nature of the ekklesia requires active participation. In the first century, believers understood that the ekklesia consisted of those who were called out to conduct business for the city/state. As a
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.
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
How we identify ourselves is important. Are we the church, or are we an ekklesia? There is an African proverb that says, “It’s not what you call me that matters, it’s what I answer to.” There is truth in this statement. A problem surfaces when you realize that you have answered to the wrong identity. It has been said that power is the ability to define a person’s reality and have them believe it.
Christians have been taught the importance of ‘going to church’. This concept began with Clement of Alexandria. It should be noted that the context he used this phrase evolved around proper the proper dress code. In an attempt to be progressive, there are Christians touting the idea that “We are the church!” By doing so, they are still aligning themselves with an identity that should have never existed.
Jesus declared He would build an ekklesia, and church became its counterfeit. If using counterfeit seems strong, you may want to consider the following.
First, according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a counterfeit is something that is made in imitation of something else with intent to deceive. I am sure that some would argue that the use of church is an unfortunate mistranslation with no deceptive intent. Yet, when you understand the history of how the word ‘church’ came to be used so widely, it is hard not to come away with the feeling that some level of deception was evident.
Second, King James ordered the translators of the bible that bears his name, to use the word church instead of congregation, which would have been a more accurate translation of ekklesia. The word congregation had been used in Matthew 16:18, in earlier bibles, specifically the Tyndale Bible. For King James, it was not just the use of a word, but it was the eradication of a concept that he attempted bury.
The king ran the Church of England through his hand-picked bishops. He made all the decisions, and they simply carried them out. The Puritans had attempted to introduce the concept of governing through a Presbytery. They were angrily rebuffed by the king, as he saw this as a threat to his authority.
The word congregation would implicitly elevate the common person, and put all believers on par with one another. This was unacceptable to King James. He believed that kings were gods and were to be undisputed in all things. When a dispute arose over the marriage of one of his sons, he was quoted as saying:
This statement coincides with his publishing of two books, The Divine Right of Kings and The True Law of Free Monarchies. Both show the absolute godlike authority he felt he, and all kings had.
So, we get back to the use of the word church. By using the word church, King James was able to push back any potential threat to his hierarchal system. Whether he did it for political expediency, or with or without malice or deception, the results have been the same. The switch from ekklesia to church has caused countless believers to embrace an identity that Jesus never intended. This switch changed the trajectory of the destiny of the Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit is beginning to pull back the blinders. Pockets of believers around the world are beginning to see. It is becoming more evident that something is wrong with the ‘church system’, even if it remains unidentifiable to some believers.
The conversation is growing. More people are beginning to write, discuss and debate this subject. Some are positioning themselves to enter the Lord’s ekklesia, and some are lining up to be against it. There are those who have taken a wait and see posture, while some have written this off as some new religious fad. Regardless as to who stands where, it is clear that the conversation is rising.
My prayer is that you will be among those who embrace your identity as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, and allow the Lord to position you accurately in His ekklesia (1Corinthians 12:18).
Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word of the Bible. This was one of the first of many books I have read on the subject of ekklesia. As with any book I read, I first want to understand the key point the author is trying to convey. I believe the full title of Steve's book sets the tone for his message.
Let's start with the title. Implicit in the phrase, 'beyond church' is that there is something outside of our traditional understanding of what believe to be 'church'. Is what we know, all there is to be known? For the average believer, the assumption is that what we know, is all there is to know. In this book, you will learn that is not the case.
The invitation that is extended becomes an additional challenge. It is intriguing to imagine there can be a 'lost word' in scripture. It is more intriguing to discover what that word is - church. Thus, begins the core of this book. Let's dig a little deeper.
The first chapter clearly outlines what you will hear over and over if you choose to study this subject. That is, that the word church is a mistranslation of the Greek noun, ekklesia. From the start, you will be faced with the idea that what you have known all your life to be church - should have never existed. Likewise, you will a challenged to try to justify version of church. You will undoubtedly find that to
be an eye-opener. Most of what we do today cannot be substantiated by scripture. You will no doubt be confronted with the decision to 'experience' the lost word of the bible - ekklesia.
As you move throughout BEYOND CHURCH, Steve begins to build a case for ekklesia. In sharing his conversion and introduction into the Jesus Movement, the author helps us to see his global view of this topic, and how he successfully assimilated his experiences into the Salvation Army.
Being born again in a traditional Presbyterian system, and later discovering Christ in open participatory meetings, it is easy to see how God used these experiences to lead Steve to his grasp of ekklesia.
I particularly like the third chapter, 'How Does Ekklesia Work?' as it reminded me of my own journey and subsequent writings. As I was writing this review, I took note of the many notations that I made during my initial reading of this book.
This is the 500th year since the Protestant reformation. Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Thesis on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg in protest of the practice of indulgences among other things. In his book, Steve Simms has provided a contemporary 95 Thesis for the 21st century believer. Those chapters alone will serve to create great discussion starters.
Now if you think that I am about to do a chapter by chapter summary, I will probably disappoint you. However, I will tell you that the remainder of the book will give you a panoramic view of ekklesia. it will be as if you are looking over Steve's shoulder as he outlines critical aspects of what he calls, 'the lost word' of the bible.
Do I have any criticism of Beyond Church? Not really. As with any book, there are areas where I may disagree with the author. But I have learned not to confuse my personal preference with criticism or disagreement. In fact, I don't even think any such areas that may exist are worth mentioning. You may find areas I struggle with to be completely acceptable.
So, what is my conclusion?
Steve Simms has done a good job of presenting a challenging subject in a very relaxing style. This alone takes away the harshness of realizing that you have been led down the wrong path in an institution called church.
I would recommend this book to you. You should have it in your library. With each chapter you will come away with a better grasp of what the Lord intended when He declared, "...upon this rock, I will build my ekklesia!"
I was honored to have the opportunity to have Steve Simms join me on our new The Ekklesia Center Podcast. We discussed a myriad of subjects about ekklesia that will encourage you. It will also help you understand the author and his book. Click the link below to hear the full podcast. Blessings! TLK
Steve Simms has served as a Pastor, motivational speaker and ministry leader in the Salvation Army. He has studied at the Memphis Theological Seminary, the Melodyland School of Theology, and The University of Tennessee Martin. He publishes a blog, FREE GAS FOR YOUR THINK TANK (a blog to jog your mind and unclog your heart) He and his wife, Ernie live in Nashville, Tennessee.
Acts 19 begins with the Apostle Paul’s interaction with a band of believers from Ephesus. He asked them had they received the Holy Ghost since they believed. Their response was that they had not even heard whether if there was such thing as the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:2)
I use this story to highlight a similar matter that I recently encountered. My new book, Leaving Church Becoming Ekklesia was recently released. I have shared it with people in my community, to marketing experts, and a few Pastors. Some commented similar to the Ephesians. They had not heard whether there was such a thing as ekklesia.
As they were examining my book, several found it difficult to pronounce the full title; specifically the word ekklesia (pronounced ek klah see ah). Even more, they claimed they were completely unfamiliar with this word. I was clearly taken aback by this these reactions – especially from some religious leaders.
Having just released a book highlighting ekklesia, it became a little disconcerting to me that several people were not familiar with it. Talk about a potential sales bummer. After giving it some thought, it occurred to me that the root of this could be traced to the deception that has blinded so many believers. We have been taught that we are ‘the church’ for so long that no one would ever think to question anything else. Ekklesia, on the other hand has been buried under years religious assumptions.
October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th year since Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. I don’t think it is an accident that the Holy Spirit is beginning to highlight the true words of Jesus in this season. Frankly, I sense we are on the verge of another great reformation.
It is highly conceivable that the folks in Luther’s day would have had difficulty absorbing what he was teaching. The indulgences and rituals were deeply engrained into their way of religious life. New ideas, such as being saved by grace through faith, and the priesthood of all believers was probably received with suspicion and doubt. But God’s purposes prevailed then, and I believe it will today.
For most believer’s today, their quest is to be good ‘church folks’. After all, it has been stressed to each of us the importance of belonging to a good ‘church’. We often beam with pride as we declare the building we are entering as being, “my church”. I can quickly clarify my doctrinal beliefs by letting you know what ‘church’ I belong to (i.e. Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc.). Thus, the word church has become the catch-all word for nearly everything in our Christian life.
Now this word ekklesia has been introduced. A word that actually goes beyond its surface definition of simply being called out. It encases the very intent of Jesus for His followers. In the first century, people generally understood the secular function of the ekklesia. Today, we must be taught this historical concept and it’s meaning to us.
Some people are familiar with ekklesia – many others are not. Among those ‘in the know’, it has been generally accepted as being the original Greek word for our English word church. Therefore, if ekklesia and church are the same, it presents no real reason for deeper study. The belief that ekklesia and church are synonymous has gone unchallenged, uncontested and unconsidered by most Christians. This reasonable apathy has existed for centuries – until now.
As I was writing this post, I thought it would be interesting to see what people understood about ekklesia. I am also under the assumption that you want to know more about ekklesia. There is a ton of information online, but I imagine you are following The Ekklesia Blog to see what I say on this subject. I clearly want to be accurate, and meet the needs of my reading audience.
You can help me. Below is a pop quiz. (No, you won’t be graded) By responding to the questions below it will do two things.
First, it will help me to know what most people understand. Then, I can prayerfully work towards providing quality information that I believe will help you.
Second, most importantly it will help you get a handle on what you know about this subject. It is important to know where you are, in order to accurately move to where you should be. Test your knowledge. All responses are anonymous. Have fun!
I can’t wait to get your responses and I thank you for taking the time to do this. Remember, what Jesus is building, He is doing it with believers like you!
Tim Kurtz is the founder of The Ekklesia Center developed to help believers desiring to pursue New Testament values and structure. He teaches extensively on what the impact the mistranslation of the Greek word ekklesia to the English word church has had on the Body of Christ. He has served in numerous capacities in the 'church system' including being a Pastor for over 25 years. He is the author of several books and the primary contributor to the EKKLESIAInsights Blog. Tim is also the host of Good Morning Ekklesia, broadcast live on Facebook. In these daily Study Starters he provides key information that believers can use to study ekklesia deeper. He and his wife Carolyn have been married 46 years and live in Michigan. They have two adult children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.