I sometimes run into people who tell me, “I saw your church.” My first impulse is to ask who they met from Fellowship of the Parks, but invariably it becomes clear that just drove by our building.
This is a commonly held misconception – that church is a place.
Somewhere along the line our definition of church has changed. The biblical definition was never about a building or a place. In the Bible, the original Greek word for church was ekklesia. In its original usage, ekklesia was a political term, meaning an assembly of citizens who have been called out of their homes to gather for a specific purpose.
What this word described was not a building (or a place), but a congregation – a gathering of people called out for a specific purpose: to glorify the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The original ekklesia in the New Testament was a movement of people who rallied around a momentous event – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks His disciples about who they think He is, Peter’s answer to this question is pivotal to understanding the foundation of the church (Matthew 16:15-18):
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 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.
Zeroing in on verse 18, Jesus says that “on this rock, I will build my church”. I don’t think He meant “on this rock I will build my building”, rather Jesus was saying “on this rock, I will build my ekklesia, a movement of people – a movement that will never die!” The foundation for this movement would be the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Later, as He was about to ascend into heaven, Jesus gives some final instructions to His ekklesia (Acts 1:6-9):
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
So often we lose sight of the original mission of the church. In Acts 1:8, Jesus lays it out quite simply: Based on the foundation that He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, we are to be witnesses – His witnesses. Our mission, as members of Christ’s ekklesia, is to be a living testimony of the Son of the living God – from our own neighborhood all the way to the ends of the earth!
Now, don’t read me wrong, in this day and age having a location is necessary in order to be an effective church. However, we need to move the concept of church back to that of an ekklesia – it is more than just a place to go to on a weekly basis, but a movement of people who serve as witnesses to the greatness of Jesus Christ.
One of the characteristics of a movement is that it doesn’t stay still – it keeps moving, adapting to changing conditions, and continues to stay relevant. To do this, the members of the assembly must stay involved and be engaged. Through the years, God has always made sure that there was a remnant of people who were committed to making sure that Christ’s ekklesia would survive into at least the next generation.
So here is the challenge: Christ calls you out into assembly to glorify His name – are you answering that call?
What can you do in 2016 to increase your engagement at Fellowship of the Parks (or wherever your home ekklesia is)?
Will you be willing to commit to being a part of this generation’s remnant – committed to making sure that the church, the ekklesia, moves from our generation to the next?
In 2016, let’s commit to make Christ’s church not just a priority, but THE priority. If we do, there’s no doubt that we will ensure the future of the church for our kids (and their kids) – handing it off even healthier and stronger than it’s ever been before!