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).
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.