05 09 Being Church (9th May 10).pdf - The Regeneration Project

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05 09 Being Church (9th May 10).pdf - The Regeneration Project

Being Church

Phil Purkiss

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

out ones.

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

community.

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Being Church

Phil Purkiss

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.

Conclusion

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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Being Church

Phil Purkiss

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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