A lot of people are turned off by “church.” My premise for this article is that people are repulsed not by the church, but by something else that bears that name but is not the genuine article. Let’s start off with a few basics.
First of all, the word “church” is a wimpy translation of another Greek word, “ekklesia.” Trust me…a better translation would be “assembly” in some contexts, “community” in others. If you don’t trust me, check it out for yourself and you’ll see I’m shooting straight with you. In the New Testament we learn some solid facts about the word we translate “church.”
- It never refers to a building.
- It always refers to people.
- It sometimes refers to a gathered assembly.
- It sometimes refers to groups or communities in regions.
- It sometimes refers to all believers in the world.
- It sometimes refers to the un-gathered community of the saved.
- There is only one ekklesia or flock belonging to God and all the saved are in it (Acts 2:47).
- It never refers to a particular denomination (As in, “Which church do you attend?”).
- It is always a noun and never modifies another noun (As in, church building, church treasury, church property, church members, etc.).
- Jesus built it (Matthew 16:18).
- It is God’s household (I Timothy 3:16)
- Christ is the only head of it, eliminating any other head…(Ephesians 1:22, Colossians 1:18 et al.).
- Christ sustains a loving, nurturing relationship to the church (read Ephesians 5).
- It is His body (Colossians 1:24).
- He purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28).
The monstrosity we so often see today is a corrupted, human-manipulated, man-dominated, misguided version of the church (ekklesia) revealed in God’s word. In many cases institutions called “churches” are merely clubs. They do not resemble the “church” of the New Testament in description or function. But make no mistake, if you are a penitent, immersed believer, God has added you to his community, flock, assembly whether you like it or not.
The ekklesia Christ built is a perfect concept. We ought to appreciate it for what it is. It is, however, made up of flawed humans (you and me) and will never be perfect in expression. We ought to struggle for what it can be.