J e s u s    T h o u g h t s
Because He Paid the Price




Church

Church. The word vibes with folks. To some the vibes are good. To others, not so good. Some worship the idea. Ohers hate it. And both miss the mark. Few properly understand, correctly appreciate, or have adequately examined what church is; what it can mean in a life, what it means in terms of Christian community. What it means, period.

The Bible's New Testament Greek word translated "church" is ekklesia. You'll recognize here the root origin of the English word ecclesiastical. Which is unfortunate. The Greek word has much humbler beginnings having nothing whatever to do with vestal robes and church hierarchy. It would be better, and more accurate, to simply think of the word, "out," as in "exit." Everyone recognizes the Greek prefix "ek," which means "out.". So the word has something to do with an exit.

The word ekklesia actually started in Greek culture as a description of public meetings that were begun in ancient times by someone standing in a central place in the village and calling out, "Hey, come...." Those who heard came out of their homes to gather, to meet. These folks were an ekklesia, a calling out, an assembly. It is unlikely that the word "church" will ever revert back to this original usage with most of us. But you can see it refers to people, not a building. The Bible in fact uses the word in this way.

This has special consequences for those who simply play at church, who pretend. Jesus calls people out. Of condemnation and into life. Out of the world of darkness into the world of light. From a God-estranged humanity to a new community reconciled to God. Therefore, for an individual to be in "the church", Christ's called-out ones, that person naturally is then called out, from something, to something. And consequently, a person who claims to be called out but remains committed to their old thinkng, old group, the old world, the old way, his or her old life, this person has reason to seriously question their salvation. That is, whether the transfer (out) has taken place in their life at all. This is the very thing the Bible warns about.

That is not to say that Jesus' church is perfect. As the saying goes, if you ever find the perfect church, don't join it because you'll ruin it. No one is perfect, not even you. The person who complains the church has hyprocrites in her does not understand. Where is the better place for hypocrites than in church? Where, presumably, they are learning to not be. A Christian is not perfect, only humbly aware of his or her sin, no longer committed to it, and forgiven it. It should be no surprise that the church has sinful people in it. People are imperfect and the church is made up of people. The amazing thing is that God called anyone; He could have left us all to our fates.

Many complain that there are so many denominations, doesn't this mean the church is flawed? It is flawed, that's why it needs Jesus. For the most part, though, denominations are the result of humanity expressing its diverse culture. The church is made of people, and people are human, and they each have unique histories, families, cultures, preferences, different filters, different emotional triggers. Some like the liturgical, others do not. Some prefer a certain version of the Bible, others other versions. Denominations do not mean no one can agree on who Jesus is and what He has done. Any group that deviates from the Bible on that score is not a denomination but a religion, what most of us call a cult. The Bible refers to such abberent teachings as the "doctrines of demons" (I Tim 4:1). The essential however, who Jesus is, remains non-negotiable in a denomination or church, or it is not part of the church; that is, its adherents not Christians. Mormanism, for example, is not a church denomination, despite the group's efforts to be accepted as such. They do not believe the Bible. Their Jesus is not God but a dethroned person equal to an angel. His blood isn't sufficient, His grace a lie, His word unreliable.

It is likely that the way we do church today, sitting in chairs facing a speaker, with little interaction either with that speaker or with each other, is not the way it was done for the first hundred years after Jesus' ascension. While many view this as normal, others see it as an aberration, a leftover from the Roman perversion. Some churches permit very little spontaneity in its services. The fear of losing control over the meeting supercedes the desire for God's Spirit to have free rein, so that church is utterly predictable, stale, uninspiring, and far from the support and fellowship gathering it is meant to be. There is no member-to-member accountability. No opportunity to share hurts and successes, pains and triumphs, growth experiences, "God moments", Scripture and prayertime breakthroughs. Church should be about these things. Worship should be more than merely responses to cues given, characterized solely by music, choreographed and controlled, and assumptive of having no connection with what the congregant does during the week. mChurches are in some cases run on grounds that could honestly be questioned. More like businesses than not. Elders are determined in many cases on the basis of their success in business, and other church leaders on their education levels. This is not Biblical. Most churches also rely on state-approved tax exemption, often for the benefit of being able to pay their pastor less. But this comes with government-imposed legal sanctions against speaking in the pulpit on political subjects. To many of us, this is a price that should not be paid.

Many are the failings one could point out. But the church is a supernatural organism for all that. Despite its faults, despite the storms of demonic opposition pressing upon it, despite decay within and increasing hostility without, Jesus' church as a worldwide whole grows believers, encourages faith, equips for ministry and is in its truest form merely a community of redeemed but still human souls longing to be with their Master. Christ's church is His body, His bride, paid for with His blood, snatched one by one from the slave marketplace in which each was destined to die, transported from the kingdom of death to His everlasting kingdom of glorious light and life. It is a community He planned from before the foundation of the world, and nothing, not even her faults, will harm her, or take her away from Him, or make her other than what she is, the continuation of Jesus' ministry and an otherworldly example of God's grace to men.