How do you see church? Do you see church as an essential part of the local community? Is it just a place to go, on Sunday morning? The church or the ecclesia is more than a Sunday morning social club. It’s also not supposed to be a hideout from the outside world. What is the church, then?
The church is a living organism called the Body of Christ. Yes, I am talking about the local community of believers in Jesus of Nazareth. We’re not called to hide from the world and just listen to nice music or interesting teachings. Rather, we’re called to impact the community, around us. I would like to share my understanding of what this means to me.
What is the ecclesia? Here’s what yourdictionary.com says “Ecclesia is defined as a political assembly of citizens in ancient Greece, or the church members. A group of ancient Greek politicians who came to Athens to debate is an example of an ecclesia. The collective congregation of a church is an example of an ecclesia.”
These Athenians came out for a reason. What reason? It certainly is not sitting and listening to the latest worship song. They were called to be involved in the local community. They were called to make decisions about what’s happening in their city. What does this have to do with church?
This fact may come as a shock, to you. The New Testament portion of the Bible was never written in English; rather it was written in ancient Greek. I can just see the confusion when Jesus first used that term. Here’s Matthew 16:15-20:
15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.Matthew 16:15-20 [NASB]
The disciples would have known the meaning of that Greek word. How it relates to them is a different story. They would get their answer, soon enough. Jesus was creating a thriving community of believers, who would go on to change the world. How? They were to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
Quite clearly, we’re not called to stare at the four walls of a building. So, how does this relate to you and me? We are not all called to do the same thing. Each person has a role to play in the Body of Christ. Guess what? iYou do not have to be a pastor or a priest for God to use you. You and I have value in the Kingdom of God!
When I started actively attending church services, a growing unease is felt within my heart. I just could not sit in a pew and be content. The problem is not the worship music or the pastor’s preaching. I simply yearned to know the purpose of what God has called me.
I was born with physical disabilities. I did not like the idea of being brushed aside and seen as a mere trophy. I desperately wanted to be a contributing member of the Body of Christ. When I came to the Vineyard, I heard of John Wimber’s quote, “Everyone gets to play!” It was sweet music to my ears!
Is that a new idea for you? It is not a strange thing that John Wimber devised. Rather, it comes directly from Scriptures. According to Paul, we are all members of one Body and each person has a part to play. We are not all called to be pastors. If so, where are we going to get kitchen helpers? Someone needs to teach the children or watch them in the nursery. The pastor is certainly not going to have time to dedicate to consistently blogging. How does one find out their purpose? Here’s one way.
Years ago, the Holy Spirit gave me, an intriguing vision. The vision had to do with writing. Clearly, it’s outside what I was doing. How was I supposed to accomplish it?
One avenue is to ask at my local church. Though they couldn’t help, I did get some encouragement. My pastor wisely suggested that I press into God and ask Jesus. Don’t discount asking at your local church. However, I would suggest asking the Holy Spirit to lead you in the right direction. He may speak directly to you or through someone else.
Don’t worry, I did not pull a sidestep and run down a bunny trail. The fact is, I am still talking about the ecclesia or the local Body of Christ. I am illustrating a simple point. If you are a follower of Jesus then there is something you should know. There are great benefits to getting together. Here’s what Hebrews 10:23-25 says:
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.Hebrews 10:23-25 [NASB]
Receiving guidance is not the only benefit of getting together. How about discovering a need and helping to meet that need? Perhaps, it is someone in need of replacing an old air conditioner. I needed help with a couple of repair jobs. I knew of someone that needed a couch. I can even recall getting an armload of DiGiorno pizzas. I think that you get the idea.
We can’t help each other by staying locked in our house. As for the pastor or priest, they can’t do it by themselves. They need help from the members of the local church. This is another reason for getting together: mutual encouragement, help when needed, and prayers.
Did you notice that I mentioned “prayer”? It is actually the duty of all believers to pray. It’s not relegated to a select few or the pastor. We’re all called to pray for our government, the needs of the community, each other, and so forth.
Yes, I am thankful for those individuals that feel a strong need to pray for others. They are a great blessing to any church belonging to Jesus. Yet, they’re not to do everything by themselves. It’s a wonderful experience to be in a room of intercessors praying together.
I’ve enjoyed both corporate prayers and praying by myself. There is a noticeable difference when two or more are gathered together, in the name of Jesus.
How the heck are they going to do this, if there’s no central location? That’s the reasoning of the organized church. However, we should not overlook the value of home churches connecting to each other through the Internet. Each group has a role to play in the Kingdom of God.
Has anyone noticed that I rarely talked about a physical building or location? Rather, I barely scratched the surface in talking about the Body of Christ or the local ecclesia. The building is simply a convenient place to meet. We’re not all blessed with a large house. Even then, it is not easy to seat 20 to 30 people.
Let’s wrap up this article with a simple question. Why are virtual get together are a great idea but a poor substitute for physically getting together? We are all in need of physical human interactions. It is not good for a man to be alone.
We all need to hear a kind voice of encouragement; even if it a badly sung telegram. I suspect when the COVID 19 pandemic is over, many people will greatly appreciate those hugs and handshakes. ven a smile from 6 feet away can brighten someone’s day.
Are you feeling quite worn out by all the social isolation? If so, I am certain this article hasn’t helped but remind you of the need for communal fellowship. First, I want to encourage you by saying, “The quarantine is not forever! You do have options for reaching out and receiving social interaction.”
Secondly, you are not alone. In truth, God’s Spirit is right there with you. Do not be afraid to talk with Jesus about your pains and struggles! Be not afraid to seek the LORD, for you will find Him. Do yourself a favor and turn off the news media & social media, for a while. Use that time to spend with God, the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.