And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18 ESV)
Jesus said “church,” and the word he used was “ekklēsia,” which means, “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly.” The above is an example of Jesus using the word where he talks about the forming of the body of believers who would be the ekklēsia.
Peter used the same word, as did Paul, Luke, John and whoever wrote Hebrews.
The “church” are those called out to assemble together; we might call the “church” the “called out ones.” It’s no doubt that all the individuals are called out from something individual into some corporate. The church is often called the “body of Christ” (sōma Christos), which we might explain by saying, “the church is those ones called out of their lives to become one together, hidden in Christ and filled by him with himself.”
The true “public assembly” is not the weekly meeting of this group or that, though it’s important those meetings mirror the true “public assembly.” The real and true “public assembly” is the Body of Christ called out to live in missional community together wherever they are. In other words, wherever believers are in the world – whatever town or community – we’re called from our own lives and goals to live the life of Jesus together in our area. We are assembled to be public; we are to be Christ on display!
The church, then, is a living organism that defies walls and organizations. However, and here’s where we are simply going to deal with words, we often call the building the church, and the activities the church, and the weekly gathering the church, and our denomination, or lack thereof, the church; in other words, we call a lot of stuff church!
We use the word that’s supposed to describe the reality and life of the living organism known as the “church” in many ways. We use the word for the living organism to describe the often very dead organization. However, if we are not part of the living organism, then the works of the organization mean nothing. That’s heavy, but it’s fact.
If we think we can exist alone, out of the community of the assembly, we are simply mistaken. None of us are called to do our own thing. We all called to be in Christ together, and his goal is to make us individually and corporately like himself.
Non-living-organism people can do organization stuff. What I mean to say is that people who aren’t actually in the church can do church stuff. They can go to church (the meeting) or go to church (the building) or do stuff with a church (denomination or location) or join the church (the organization) without ever being made alive as part of the organism. That’s where the confusion often lies!
There is danger in the church (organization) doing stuff that’s not the life of the church (organism). That’s the source of much confusion! We see a dead organization doing stuff that is not what the living organism is called to do!
That is no excuse for the living to ignore the calling of being what God calls us to be. It’s no excuse for the dead to stay dead when Christ calls any who will receive him to life.
The church is the worldwide body of Christ called out by him to be filled by him with himself to do the works he desires to do. If the organization is not doing that, ask for revival and work for reform. If you aren’t doing the works of Christ and growing in the character of Christ, it’s possible you are going to church but are not being the church.
Let’s not let words be an excuse or a roadblock. Jesus is calling. He is inviting. Don’t let what the church has done to disappoint you make you miss this Jesus calling you into the church (and the church). The dead organization does not produce the good works of the living organism. It is like God to call us into both, that both may be full of life.
Church, don’t think because we are going to the building, joining the organization, attending the meeting and doing some activity within a local group or denomination that we are being who God has called us to be! Reform and revival! Reform sets the sails while revival brings the wind; I want both!
Think on this: “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.’” (Revelation 3:1-3 ESV)
Go to church and be the church. Join a church and be the church.