Church or Ekklesia?

Several months ago I attended a continuing professional education seminar.  There were about a three hundred people in attendance, with multiple speakers who are experts in their various fields.  It caught my attention when each speaker invited questions OR comments DURING his or her presentation!  The thought struck me, "I wonder what would happen if that procedure was instituted in Christian gatherings?"

Years ago when our son was small he asked me this question, "Dad, who is Naaman?"  I was a young Christian and very surprised that our son knew the name of Naaman, and it took some time for me to find the story of Naaman n  2 Kings chapter 5.  But it gave me a key insight into the purpose and reality of water baptism, and I noted that God used my little boy rather than some Bible teacher to guide me to that key.

Now, back to the topic:

I am adding this new paragraph because I have come to the conclusion that one must be a disciple of Jesus on order to receive and understand that which follows in this page.  Most Christians believe that they are disciples of Jesus, but Jesus had certain conditions which anyone who wants to be His disciple must meet:
Luk_14:26  If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
Luk_14:27  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple.
Luk_14:33  So then, everyone of you who does not forsake all his possessions, he cannot be My disciple.

Now, if you meet these qualifications every day, you may read on.  Otherwise you will simply be wasting your time.  If you do not meet these condition, it means that you are a disciple of someone other than Jesus.  Perhaps you are a disciple of Peter or Paul or Luther or Calvin or the Pope or Wesley or some other person or organization.  But only Jesus Christ can teach us and transform us into the child of God whom God the Father wants us to be!  He alone can set us free from all delusions and deceptions and every other thing which hinders us from being all that we can be In Him.

The word 'church' is commonly used to describe local congregations of Christians and larger organizations of local congregations.  There are a variety of webpages which address the distinction between the words 'church' and 'ekklesia', but I just want to make several observations:

First, the word 'church' is derived from the Greek work 'kuriakos', which means 'a lordship'.  This word is used only twice in the New Testament, both times in reference to the Lord's supper.  A related Greek word 'kurieuo', which means 'to exercise dominion', is used seven times in the New Testament, almost always with a negative connotation.  Another related Greek word is 'kuriotees', which means 'a domain', and is used four times in the New Testament epistles.

Second, the Greek word 'ekklesia' is used 115 times in the New Testament, and means 'a called-out group'.  It is generally used by Jesus and others to describe groups of Christians, and was used in Acts 7:38 - the out-called group in the desert - when referring to the children of Abraham whom God called out of Egypt.

I find it interesting that Jesus gave clear instructions to His disciples concerning whether to exercise lordship over others:

Luke 22:24  A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.
Luke 22:25  And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
Luke 22:26  But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

It seems to me that translations of the Bible which use the English word 'church' to describe groups of Christians are incorrect and misleading, and are the result of carnal church leaders or theologians who improperly rule over God's people rather than serving them, and want to continue to do so as did the Pharisees in Jesus' time.

Jesus had more to say about relationships among His people.  For example,

Mat 23:1  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
Mat 23:2  "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat,
Mat 23:3  so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
Mat 23:4  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Mat 23:5  They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long,
Mat 23:6  and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues
Mat 23:7  and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi [teacher] by others.
Mat 23:8  But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Mat 23:9  And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.
Mat 23:10  Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.
Mat 23:11  The greatest among you shall be your servant.
Mat 23:12  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus says to not be called teacher or father or instructor, because He alone is to be our instructor, and we are all brothers, implying equality.  He also equates the use of such titles as manifestations of pride.

I hear many Christians lamenting the present condition of the Christian population, saying that we need 'revival'.  I believe that what we really need is to obey the clear commandment of Jesus by humbling ourselves before God and each other, denying ourselves daily, taking up our crosses daily (as did Paul, who said that he died daily), and taking the yoke of Jesus upon ourselves so that we can learn from Him and receive His meekness and lowliness of heart.  The result, I suspect, will be the radical reformation of the body of Christ into the holy 'ekklesia' which we are meant to be!

When we get ourselves cleansed of the pride which so easily besets us, then we can begin to be the vessels of grace and truth which we are meant to be to each other, and we will be able to receive grace and truth from each other - to the glory of God our Father!

SO, WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

Whether you are a part of a 'church' or part of an 'ekklesia' is a very important question because it will affect your whole life.  'How?', you may ask.

If you, in your heart, are a part of a church, that means that you have submitted yourself  to the teachings and practices of a local church and/or its parent denomination.  You not only get to know people you meet with regularly, but you also 'inherit' the spiritual traditions and practices of whomever you submit yourself to.  For example, by hearing the sermons of  one pastor or a small number of pastors or teachers or one denomination, you tend to receive that person or persons' or denomination's strengths and weaknesses.  The effect is that a congregation eventually becomes the 'disciple' of their pastor or teacher or denomination.  You also demote other Christians to being cousins rather than brothers or sister.

If, on the other hand, your heart's desire is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you are not relying on any one pastor or teacher or denomination for your sustenance, you are relying on the One True God and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent to be your Leader and Teacher and your All in All.  He may plant you in a certain congregation or denomination, but He is also free (and you are free as well) to be moved to wherever your Master wants you to be.

This is particularly important to me, because I had a major prophetic experience on this subject.  If you are interested in the rest of the story, see Three Questions

The real issue here is that God calls His people out to be separate from the rest of the unbelieving and disobeying world so that He can be our Father:

2 Cor 6:14-18  Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what fellowship does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are a temple of the living God, even as God said, "I will" dwell in them and "walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (Lev. 26:12; Ezek. 37:27) Because of this, "come out from among them" "and be separated," says the Lord, "and do not touch the unclean thing," and I will receive you. (Isa. 52:11) "And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons" and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Sam. 7:8, 14; Isa. 43:6 ).

I have noticed that few Christians have a real relationship with God the Father.  Most seem only to have a relationship with Jesus.  I suspect that the reason why few Christians know God as Father is because they have failed to answer to call to come out and be separate from the world.

Have you, dear reader, answered God's call to come out of the world so that He can receive You to Himself and be your Father?  If not, why not do so now???  By claiming the cross and death of Jesus as your own death you can be crucified to the world so that you can truly 'come out' of the world and be separate not only in practice but more importantly in your heart.  Then you will find that God will be your Father, and you can really be His son or daughter!

PS:  In my experience, the 'church' is typically a lecture-hall in which a pastor attempts to 'renew the minds' of the people in the congregation by his or her teaching.

Also in my experience the 'called-out' Christians tend to be those who want to minister to others using the spiritual gifts and talents which they have, and they are willing and able to receive ministry from others regardless of who they are or what their experience has been - all for the common good.  They see the need for each of us to not only have our minds renewed, but also to have our hearts circumcised by the 'Heart-Knowing God'!

I have heard that there are more Christians outside 'the church' than in the church, and I would not be surprised to find that this is a true statement.  I hope to encourage every person, both those 'in the church' and those 'outside the church' that our heavenly Father has a great plan for each and every one of our lives, and we all need to let Him rule and reign in our lives as He sees fit, and not according to the rules and regulations of people or organizations, no matter how good their intentions may be.

Finally, we need to recognize that Jesus pointed out that the religious leaders of His time had set aside the Word of God with their traditions:

Mar 7:13  making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have delivered. And you do many such things.

I want to challenge you, dear reader, to ask Jesus to show you any traditions by which you have made the Word of God of no effect in your life.  I was amazed at what He showed me in response to that prayer, and found great freedom, peace and opposition when I renounced all traditions of men which were nullifying the Word of God in my life.  hmmm

I suspect that you too will desire to experience and find a true 'called-out fellowship' rather than a 'church' experience when you have been set free from the traditions of men by our Lord Jesus!!