Several letters in the New Testament are addressed “to the ekklesia” in certain cities. Ekklesia was the name of the city council in ancient Greek city-states. Thus, Jesus said: “I will build My city council.” However, in most English language Bibles the word ekklesia has been replaced by the word church which means a place of religious worship, a religious meeting conducted in such a place, or a religious organization.
Most of the Bible’s ekklesia letters were written by Paul of Tarsus. Here Paul describes his reason for writing. “I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the ekklesia (city council) of the living God.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
One ekklesia that Paul used as a positive example for others was the ekklesia in the city of Thessalonica. In his second letter to them (2 Thessalonians 1:4) Paul wrote: “Among God’s ekklesias (city councils) we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”
Form this letter we learn that an ekklesia is supposed to look directly to the living, resurrected Jesus Christ for its leadership, its strength, and its encouragement (and not to a mere human minister). Paul of Tarsus tells them that four times:
- “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed.” (2:16-17)
- “The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” (3:3)
- “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (3:5)
- “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (3:16)
Since the Lord Jesus is with us when we gather in His name (Matthew 18:20), why do churches look to a man to run and control church meetings? Paul tells us that the Lord is present in the ekklesia and that He will minister directly to us “Himself,” without a human minister doing it for Him.
Perhaps we could begin to move beyond church and into ekklesia. One step in that direction is to give the living, resurrected Jesus Himself some time on the church program. For example, we could give Jesus 12 minutes. The minister could invite people to come to the mic as they are prompted by the Spirit. Then he could sit down and allow Jesus to direct the next 12 minutes. After that he could go on with his program.
For more ways to go beyond church, check out my new book: Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible available at Amazon at this link.