The Church I’ve Never Known

You belong to a church and so do I. Regardless of what the actual name is of the Jesus community we belong too, we call it church. We belong to the church, the church of Jesus Christ.

But what does that mean to be the church?

I recently finished writing a paper on preaching and the responsibility we have, as the church, in the mission of God. In this article As The Father Has Sent Me, I Am Sending You, Michael W. Goheen discusses why early Christians continued identifying themselves with the word “church” (ecclesia) saying,

The original meaning of ecclesia was a public assembly to which all citizens of the city were summoned. The town clerk issues the call and the public gathering of citizens discussed and settled affairs that were important for the city’s life. This self-chosen name must be contrasted with the names that were given to the church by its enemies. Celsus and others referred tot eh church as thiasos and heranos. Both of these words were selected to interpret the church as a private religious cult that offered personal salvation by way of knowledge, self-discipline, and religious practice; religious communities of this kind received the protection of Roman law because they did not threaten the public doctrine of the Roman empire. The church refused to accept the designations of private religious fraternities but saw itself as a people participating in the end-time kingdom of God and launched into the public life of the world to challenge all competing allegiances, including most urgently, of course, the cultus publici of the Roman empire-the emperor cult.

That’s probably not something many churches will hear about in a Sunday sermon. In fact, many churches seem quite at home among the kingdoms (=nations) of this world.

I don’t believe a one to one comparison can be made between the Roman Empire and the United States or any other modern nation. But the fact that our fellow Christians insisted on being an ecclesia knowing that such identity made them a threat to the Roman Empire, which undoubtedly resulted in persecution, should create some questions.

I wonder how many of churches view themselves as an subversive threat the the national kingdoms of this world? My church doesn’t. Does yours? That’s the church I’ve never known.

Maybe that’s part of the missional problem with us Christians…we feel to at home in the national/tribal kingdoms of this age. And the irony is that many Christians my age and older can remember singing the old spiritual This World Is Not My Home!

9 responses to “The Church I’ve Never Known

  1. Andy Stanley in “Deep and Wide” refers to the origin of the word church in William Tyndale’s discovery in the 1500’s. The word is really about a movement and not the establishment. Great read if you haven’t checked it out.

    • I’ve read about half of “Deep and Wide” (which I enjoyed) but have not had time to finish it due to other reading I have for classes. But thanks for mentioning this and thanks for the comment.

      Grace and Peace,


  2. Interesting post! Was recently reading someone’s post on why cofC don’t use musical instruments and it was repeatedly stated that they follow in the example of the New Testament church. Hmmm, wonder if we really know what that means.

    • Exactly! the CofC’s follow the example of the New Testament church just like every other church group today . . . selectively.

      Of course, the irony of any church claiming to follow the NT church or any other church is that we’re called to follow Jesus, not the church.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Grace and Peace,


  3. The problem most seem to have is that to follow Jesus is to follow His teachings. He taught that He would build His church, singular. I suggest reading 1 Corinthians 3. Paul reminds them to be careful how they build on the foundation, which there is no other, but Jesus Christ. He talks about building on it with human wisdom, ie, precious stones etc, vs 12. He says their work will become clear and they will be tested by fire and will not stand. verse 17 is one that should be noted. If anyone defiles the temple of God/ the Lord’s church, God will destroy him. Paul warned Timothy that a great falling away would come, many departed from the truth and created man made organizations they called “churches”, this continues. Today, man dictates the terms and conditions of salvation. Act 2 informs us that those who gladly received Peters message, repented and were baptized for the remission of their sins and God added them to HIS church. You see they met Gods requirements and God added them. We can create for ourselves anything we want, we can call it anything we want. but it doesn’t make it the Lord’s church. As Scripture teaches and Paul reminds, We must obey that form of doctrine that was delivered by the Holy Spirit to the Apostles. Matt 7:21 teaches us that not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of God, some will say have we not prophesied in your name, have we not done many wonderful works in your name, Jesus said, depart from me, you workers of iniquity.

    • “We can create for ourselves anything we want, we can call it anything we want. but it doesn’t make it the Lord’s church.”

      Yes, we can but be careful that with all of the hermeneutical assumptions and ad hoc proof-texting of scripture you do, that you’re not actually doing the very same thing.

  4. Scripture is clear, Scripture says what it says. I know full well that people don’t always like want they read, so they change the meaning of things to fit their agenda. Godly wisdom created it so the common man could understand it. We have been given God’s revealed word, so that we can proof text, we can test the spirits to see if they are from God. The assumptions are on you Rex. I can read and understand what the Lord wants His church to look like, how it is to worship, what it is to believe and teach, what its leadership looks like. You know and understand as well. The question is why? Why do you desire to change the Lord’s church? The answer is, you have been influenced by human wisdom and reasoning, of which God has said it is foolishness to Him. You seem to want to separate Jesus from His church. This simply cannot be done. If you are saved, (met God’s requirements) God has added you to His church, you can’t have one without the other. Lets remember, when Christ returns, He will be coming for His church, and He will deliver it to the Father.

    • Seriously…do you really believe you have a perfect understanding of scripture? You might try a little more humility before you go accusing someone of being deceived by human wisdom and reasoning, especially someone you don’t even know!

  5. I just go by what you say Rex, and compare it to God’s word.

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