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September, 2013

WHAT IS “CHURCH”? 

Perhaps I missed the important connection because it was already so mind-blowing.  

Colossians 1 contains one of the most powerful descriptions of Christ in the entire Bible:

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;

 For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist. Colossians 1:15-17

Not only is Christ equated with God; not only does it claim the purpose for everything in the universe is for Him; it says at this very nano-second, the only reason things exist at all, is by His active will.

 

God is not a “watch maker” that got the machinery of the universe up and running, and then walked away.  It is not even the case that He designed it and simply keeps a loving eye on it.  Like the unknown quantum force inside the atom, God is actively and continually sustaining reality.

 

That is profound enough, so I missed connecting it to the next sentence:

And he is the head of the body, the church… Colossians 1:18

 

This thing called “the church” is linked to the very existence of the universe.  Even as a Christian, that’s a pretty uncomfortable claim.  But there it is. 

 

So what is “the church”?  Jesus used quite an unexpected term.  He called it “Ekklesia,” in the original Greek.  That is unexpected because it wasn’t really a positive word.  It was a term of government meaning those called out to assemble for an election.  The closest thing we have to it today would be a summons for jury duty.  It is an inconvenient honor.  Only a citizen of the country can sit on a jury, you are entrusted to the sacred burden of justice, but you have to set aside your normal, day to day living in order to answer the call.  What’s more; a summons is not something you can simply refuse.

 

For the Greek, and then Roman citizens, if they were called to an election, there were stiff penalties if they ignored the summons.  It was an honor to be called, but it was not convenient.  And hence, “Ekklesia” was not particularly popular. 

 

“Ekklesia” was a privilege and duty, but more importantly; it was people and  process.  That is the name given to this thing called “the church.”  “The church” is not buildings or denominations, although both are involved.  Some will say, “No, the church is people”, but that is not really correct either.  The church is not people; it is only the people involved in a particular process. 

 

The church is only the people in process.  According to Scripture, the process is their transformation into a character more like God, and the process of opening the same opportunity up to others.  By the very definition, “Ekklesia” are those “in process,” who answer the call and assemble together as a community; warts and all.  That has some heavy implications: It is not the spiritual purist who holds up in his or her own home as “church.”  In the same respect; it is not the pew warmer who does little but sit in a service one hour a week.  The church is people in the process of transformation… together. 

 

Here’s the big thing: The New Testament gives no other name for the body of people to whom God is connected. 

Bottom line: If you or I are going to use Scripture as our reference, let’s use it for what it really says.  And what it really says is; to be connected to the God who sustains everything, we must be “Ekklesia” or we are not actually connected at all.

Canaan Community Church 800E off Gettysburg.  E# 54

 

Blessings,

Pastor Kevin

Canaan Community Church

 

 

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