This week I want to just take a week out from our journey through the book of John, and talk about
Being Church, I want to have a talk about our understanding of Church and walk through the
scriptures on what this idea is Church is meant to be about.
The term Church seems to have lost its meaning, when someone mentions the fact that I am going to
Church today, they are generally referring to one of two things: a place; or a service. Generally today
we use this word to describe a place, so we called certain types of buildings as churches, and we say
things like I visited a really beautiful church today, we also use this word to describe a service, I go to
church on Sunday. Now the problem with this is that we then subconsciously delegate church as a
sacred place we go and or a sacred service we watch, and you know this is true when some ones
behaviour automatically changes when you step into a building or a service.
The word Church is translated from a Greek word ecclesia, this term ecclesia comes from two words:
ek, meaning "out", and kaleo, meaning "to call". The idea of the word Church referring to a building
or services, scripturally is ridiculous, it refers to a community of people. This idea of church is the call
I am currently reading a book called ReJesus by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch, now what Frost & Hirsch
say is that the term Jesus, and more often Paul, used to describe a gathering of Christians was really
interesting, because originally there was no word or collective noun to describe the gathering or
forming of this new Christian community. What Paul does is that he borrows a word, now interesting
if what Paul wanted to convey is this idea of this Christian community as building or a service he
could have used loads of words:
• Herion, Nahos: Which give us the idea of temple (the temple at Jerusalem), sanctuary or
shrine (as in shrine to God or a god)
• Agora or Panegyris: Which give us the idea of a gathering
• Heorte, Koinon, Thiasos, Synagoge, or Synago: Which convey the idea of an assembly
Now it would have been easy for both Jesus and Paul to use this idea of Synagoge, which was a
religious gathering, to convey this idea of this new Christian community because they already existed
and were used in relation to people meeting God.
However, instead of using these terms, which would have been adequate to describe a religious
gathering or assembly, Paul borrows this term ecclesia and invests it with a new, distinctly Christian
meaning. The word ecclesia in its original understanding was not a religious term but had political
and social connotations. In Paul's time an ecclesia was a gathering of the elders of a community, in
smaller villages across Judea, local elders would meet regularly to discuss the political and social
dilemmas that were affecting the community. The ecclesia was a gathering of wise community
leaders, brought together by their common vision for the harmony and well‐being of the wider
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Now Paul borrows this idea of ecclesia to describe the community or gathering of Christians (disciples
or followers of Jesus), and then he loads the term with new understanding through his letters,
including: it being a body striving for unity and diversity; a family demonstrating devotion, loyalty and
affection; an army presupposing focus and discipline.
I want to take a look through some scriptures and just try and shared some thoughts that may help us
recapture what this idea of this community called church is and should look like.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will
not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will
be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his
disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. Matthew 16.18‐20
The idea of a church that I get from this scripture is if communities of believers being built in the
most unsuspecting places, and amongst the most unsuspecting people. Where even though there is
every reason for them not to thrive, these communities do, the gates of hell cannot hold back or
contain the love that these communities share, and they cannot stop this love pulling people over
from darkness the God’s light.
41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls
were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the
breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs
were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in
common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they
ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the
people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2.41‐47
The idea of a church community here is a community that is together. Interesting in the scriptures it
refers to this community meeting together; praying together; sharing resources together; eating
together; worshipping and praising God together; gathering together; working and being on mission
together with one heart and purpose; be blessed together; fighting together for the Good news;
fitted together; bound together with peace; fellowshipping together in the Spirit; knit, joined and
bound together in love; standing together.
17Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but
for the worse. 18For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions
among you, and in part I believe it. 19For there must also be factions among you, that those who are
approved may be recognized among you. 20Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not
to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is
hungry and another is drunk. 22What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise
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the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in
this? I do not praise you. 1 Corinthians 11.17‐22
This church pulls resources together and ensures that the needs are met and wealth is distributed,
that the least amongst us is considered the most, where we serve each other and put each other first.
Interestingly coming together for the early church looked completely different to what we call
coming together today, when they met it was very rarely in public buildings but in private homes –
homes were opened out to facilitate this thing that God was doing amongst them. Relationships
were not shallow and superficial, smiles and laughs but rather personal and intimate, where honesty,
truth, love, kindness, support and cared was found. Today it is hard to be honest in church
communities about what you are really going through and struggling with, because we are afraid of
being judge, excluded, looked down on, but for the church that Jesus and Paul talked about it was
easy to share because they were communities of people that loved and care for each other.
These were inclusive communities, where the people that lived on the edges and fringes of society,
the poor, broken, sick, and the marginalised were invited in to be a part of the this community.
Those that didn’t fit anywhere else, people that looked, thought, and lived differently to the believers
were loved and invited to be a part of this community.
12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form
one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews
or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14Now the body is not made
up of one part but of many. 15If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the
body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say,
“Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part
of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole
body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in
the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one part, where would
the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I
don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22On the contrary, those
parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are less
honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with
special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined
the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there
should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If
one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. 27Now
you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed
first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts
of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in
different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work
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miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly
desire the greater gifts. 1 Corinthians 12. 12‐31
This idea of church that pull spoke about looked completely different to what we call church day, the
gatherings were fluid and took different shapes and forms, they were not shows or performances
where a few led and participated in, but they were gathering where everybody was involved in. It
could have been singing but it also could have been a meal, it could have been formal teaching but it
could have also been informal teaching. It was not a place where a few operated in their gifts but a
place where everybody operated in their gifts and the body was built up because of that, it was not a
place where a few gifts were important and others were marginalised but where every gift was
important and operated all of the time . Ephesians tells us that God gave gifts of Apostle, Prophet,
Evangelist , Teacher, and Pastor were given to the church for it to do the mission that God has sent it
on, these were not titles and positions for the privileged few but rather gifts for all.
Isn't it interesting that today when we talk about ecclesia or church (as it is translated), we only
understand it in religious context, and often use to the word to describe a religious group, building or
a gathering. Jesus and Paul's expectations of the church was far greater than just a religious group,
gathering or building, but rather a community of people that met together, and had the best
interests of the neighbourhood at heart. This was a group of people that were sent by Jesus to
participate in the neighbourhoods that they were a part of, add value, bring wisdom, and connect
their destinies with that of their community.
It seems to me that Christianity has lost what it really means to be church in terms of what Jesus and
Paul talked about, when we only understand the church to be a religious group or service, we fail to
recognise the impact that Jesus has called us to have on the world around us.
Imagine if we could recapture that New Testament understanding of Church! Imagine if we could
recapture the church's ability to transform the communities and neighbourhoods around us!
I believe that in order to do this we need to move beyond our understanding of church as just as a
religious group, service or building, and we need to be creative in the ways in which we gather, what
we do when we gather, where we gather, and who we are when we gather! We need to become
authentic communities that exist for the mission of Christ!
Our relationships which each other need to move from the shallow and superficial, to those where
we can be honest, non‐judgmental, and loving! Our gatherings need to be multi‐dimensional, where
everyone participates, and where the giftings of all the members of the body are expressed. This
does means that many (if not most) of our forms of doing things and structures will need to disposed
of, and we will need to move back to more authentic way of being church (the New Testament way).
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According to Acts 2, this will mean sharing our resources with each other, worshipping together (not
just singing but loving and living), meeting together in our own environments (not just in a place we
call church), sharing meals together with generosity and joy. It will also mean inviting those who live
on the fringes and margins of society, people that society has forsaken, people who are not like us
and don't agree with us to be a part of these encounters.
I believe that the Kingdom of God is the hope of the world, and the church is a vital part of that
Kingdom, when we become authentic communities, focused on the mission Christ, heaven will come
crashing down to our communities and neighbourhoods.
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