Stop Calling It Church

churchWhat do you think of when you hear the word church?

Perhaps you think of a religious building, worship service, denomination, or even all Christians.  However, this is not the correct meaning of the word.  In our church you will often hear the phrase, “The church is a people not a place.”  Where do we get this?  Actually, it is from the definition of the Greek word used for church, “ekklesia” (pronounced “ek-klay-sea’-ah”).  The word means a called-out assembly or congregation.   In older translations, like the Tyndale English Bible, you cannot even find the word “church”.  The word ekklesia is correctly translated as “congregation or assembly”.   Ekklesia is used 115 times in the New Testament and in most modern Bibles it is always translated as “church” except in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41 where it is properly translated as “assembly”.

So, what’s the big deal? Why does it matter?  It matters because a misunderstanding of the “church” has far reaching implications.  For example, there are those who claim that the church is all the saved.  However, if you use “ekklesia” and its correct definition of “called out assembly” what you are saying is that all the saved is an assembly that is called out.  Contextually “ekklesia” in the New Testament is a local and visible assembly of believers who congregate for a specific purpose.  The universal church is neither local nor visible and in order to be an assembly you have to be both.  So, if you want a name for all the saved, call them the family of God as stated in Ephesians 3:15, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”  A church must be local, visible, and assembled. Anything else is not a church.

We do see all the saved referred to universally in Revelations 21:9 as the “bride of Christ”.  However, it is interesting to note that at this time the rapture has occurred and all the saved are local, visible, and assembled together.

Another reason it matters is because when people misunderstand the true meaning of the word “church”, they misapply the practices of it.  An example would be “home church”.  While I understand the reason behind this movement it is still built on a cracked foundation.  You can read about that here. Those that “home church” gather the family, read scripture, pray, and sing songs of worship.  In truth, they are doing what God commands the family to do.  He does expect the father to lead his family spiritually.  This practice is what the older generations called a “Family Altar”.  This should be done daily.  But don’t call it “church”.  It is not the assembly.  Every Christian family should worship daily and then, throughout the week, gather with other like-minded believers for corporate worship. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  (Heb 10:23-25) 

The practices of the local assembly do not work within a single family
unit.   For example, church discipline as commanded in scripture is impossible in a single family unit.  In a “home”  setting the Pastoral Epistles that Paul wrote become unnecessary.  Church ordinances such as baptism and communion are not individual ordinances and the word “fellowship” assumes a gathering or congregation. In addition, the roles of men and women within the assembly (as found in I Timothy) would not apply either. However, in scripture we do see a family of families assembling together as a local unit.  This is necessary to fulfill the role of the ekklesia.

Words do matter.  The study of words in the Bible is foundational to accurate exegesis.  Let’s be true to the word “ekklesia” and use it correctly.

My Brother’s Keeper

As people were standing around visiting last night after church services a comment was made that people need to “mind their own business”.  We were joking around and the comment was made in a light-spirited way but it made me contemplate a serious topic that permeates the modern church.  There is a notion going around that when it comes to one another in the church, people should “mind their own business” so to speak.  The idea of accountability, looking out for one another, exhortation, discipleship, admonishment, and being answerable to one another is gone.  This thought is foreign, especially when it comes to a brother or sister who is sinning.  After all, who are you to point out the faults and failures in others? 

 But as we read the Bible we see a theme of accountability of believers to one another.  We are to love one another, honor one another, edify one another, admonish one another, care for one another, serve one another, restore one another, bear one another’s burdens, and be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving toward one another.  We are to teach one another, comfort one another, exhort one another, and consider one another.  The Bible says we are to confess our sins to one another, have compassion with one another, be hospitable to one another, minister to one another, and fellowship with one another.  (John 13:34, Romans 12:10, Romans 14:19, Romans 15:14, I Corinthians 12:25, Galatians 5:13, Galatians 6:1-2, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:16, I Thessalonians 4:18, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24, James 5:16, I Peter 3:8, I Peter 4:9-10, I John 1:7)

 God designed us for accountability.  We need each other.  It was never intended for the believer to be an island off to themselves.  Coming to the faith in Scriptures always meant coming to a local fellowship of believers (the church or assembly).  Salvation is personal but the Christian life is not; we are not to be lone rangers.  When we are born into this world we are born to a family; when we are “born again” we should be joined with a family of believers.  In this family, the older are to teach the younger (Titus 2).  The strong in the faith should help to restore those overtaken in faults (Galatians 6:1).  The brethren should lovingly exhort and warn the unruly (I Thessalonians 5:14).  We are called to encourage one another daily so that sin will not harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:12-13).  And we are to love those in sin enough to have compassion and make a difference in their life.  Jude 22-23 says, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”  We are our brother’s keeper!  It was the first murderer who said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9.  Do we, as believers, really want to associate with this line of thinking?

There are several reasons that believers do not get involved in the lives of other believers.  One reason is that we are busy and it takes a lot of effort and time to be accountable to one another.  But that should not be an excuse.  We should make time for one another.  Another reason is that we have sin in our lives that we do not want to deal with.  Therefore, we cannot deal with sin in other people’s lives.  King David had sin in his life (a lot of sin) but when he repented and confessed his sin before God he said in Psalms 51 that he would use his experience to teach others.  “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee,” Psalm 51:13.  Another reason we do not exhort others is because we fear that if we do we will be seen as “judging” them.  It is here people quote, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” (Matthew 7:1).  This is the problem we have when Scripture is taken out of context.  The Bible does not say we cannot judge the sins of others but that we are to first cast the beam out of our own eye “and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye,” (Matthew 7:5).  We are not to be hypocritical but in love and concern for our brother tell him his fault.

 I have found through social media, (like fb) that there are many professing Christians that have no qualm about sharing their sins with the world.  In pride and without shame they are puffed up and boast about sinning against God.  This greatly concerns me.  The testimonies of these charlatans are ruining the name of Christ.  When Christ’s name is slandered His church looses the ability to influence society.   This is partly the reason the church is relegated to the corner of society.  These people might have a “form of godliness” but they deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5).  What power are they denying?  They are denying the power of the Word of God to work in their life, (I Thessalonians 2:13).   They are denying the power of Christ to crucify the old man, (Romans 6:6).   They are denying the power of God to keep them from practicing a lifestyle of sin (I John 3:9). They are denying the power of the Holy Ghost to teach them spiritual things, (I Corinthians 2:10-13).

 Like so many issues in the Bible, this one is clear.  The truths found in Scripture are absolute.  The Bible is black and white.  But regardless of this reality, they are not always easy to receive.  Accountability is hard.  It is hard to submit to the authority of others in your life.  But when we submit to that authority we are submitting to the will of God, (I Peter 5:5).  And likewise, sometimes it is hard speaking God’s Word into the life of others.  But if we truly love our brothers and sisters in the Lord we will be their keeper and exhort, rebuke, edify, and admonish them when it is necessary.

The Modern Church

 “I don’t like those people!”

“I refuse to go to that church!”

“The people there are hypocrites!”

Have you ever heard statements like these? Many of us have. Sadly, many times people who make these statements simply stay at home and refuse to participate in their church functions. They will not join another church either. Perhaps they feel justified because they have been deeply wounded. Perhaps they are just making excuses. But regardless, for some reason they are “forsaking the assembly” (Hebrews 10:25). This attitude is in every town, within every individual church, and has been around since the beginning.

Something that I have witness of late is the “home church” movement. This group of people is different than the ones described above. Often, they are among the finest and most devoted Christians. They rightly believe that it is the parent’s role to teach and train their children in the ways of the Lord. It is not the government’s role or even the churches’ role to teach their children. These committed parents are faithful in teaching the Bible and living a consistent godly life. They are faithful in protecting their children from the world and the evils in it.

Often these families were once very involved in a local church but something happened to discourage them. The reasoning for withdrawing is usually warranted.

“The church looks and acts just like the world.”

 “I shelter my children six days a week just to have them exposed to something immoral from the other children at church.”

“The church is not following the doctrines laid out in Scripture.”

These are all the comments I hear. And sadly, many modern day churches make it harder and harder for those who are striving to live by biblical principles to be a part of.

Consider these four examples.

1. Church one is a rather large church and probably the most severe case. Unfortunately, they are very worldly and known in the community for their divisions. The membership is divided between ministers within the church. One faction follows the leadership of the pastor and another follows the leadership of another minister. This division causes constant envying and strife among the believers. It has gotten so bad that members of the same church have been known to sue one another causing even more division. Recently, one family was torn apart because of sexual immortality between family members. The whole town heard of this. In addition, the church abuses its ordnances. The membership of this church often has trials and many are sick. It is apparent that God is judging this church.

 2. Church two is a wonderful church full of promise and potential. But there are two women in this church that cannot seem to get along. All the good qualities are overlooked in this church because of these women. Others have had to step in and try to resolve the issue. It is so bad the other churches know about this problem, therefore, the church has a bad reputation.

3. Church three has members within the church who teach lies. Entire families are being persuaded and have embraced these false doctrines. There are those in the community who slander and falsely accuse the church. The leadership of this church will have to eventually deal with this issue before it destroys the church.

4. Church four has a young pastor who is very faithful. But, this pastor has to deal with those who refuse to submit to his leadership because of his age. And unfortunately, like church three, this church also has to deal with false teachers. The teachers are known hypocrites who try to influence those who are weak in the faith. It is easy to see how the more mature Christians struggle with this and get discouraged.

These examples are from just a few churches. But if we were to pull back the curtain of hypocrisy and reveal the churches as they truly were, we would find that every modern day church has problems. The doctrines taught seem to be superficial, the worldliness abounds, and unqualified pastors often prey on their congregations for greedy gain. One can see why devoted Christians want to reject it all and worship God in Spirit and Truth in the safe haven of their home. Understandably, they want to be a part of a pure and holy church, somewhat like the first century church, who met in their homes. These early believers were filled with the Spirit. They prayed and fellowshipped together. They had one heart and one soul. They even had all things common (Acts 4:31-37). What a wonderful church to belong to!

However, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Nor, was the church better in the first century. You see, the four examples given were from the first century. Church one was the Corinthian church, Church two was the church at Philippi. Church three was the church at Crete, whose pastor was Titus. And church four was the church at Ephesus. Timothy is the young faithful pastor mentioned above. All of these were founded by none other than Paul himself during the first century.

So, let me ask this question. What would have happened to the church at Ephesus (or any of the others) if all the mature, striving Christians would have left the church? It is likely that Timothy would have been left fighting heresy all alone. The church would have continued down a path of wickedness, never learning the truth. Without the examples of the mature believers and the discipleship they give, the babes in Christ would have never matured. The remaining sheep would have been slaughtered by wolves and the goats would have rule. I see this very thing happening today. In the pursuit of a perfect church, many have given up the fight and turned individual churches over to Satan. Without support, the pastor is left feeling defeated and he too often gives up.

In addition, a family who pulls out from the church also pulls out from under the authority that Christ established within the church. When they forsake the assembly, they remove themselves out from under the authority of the pillar and ground of the truth – the church (I Timothy 3:15). Christ called His church (Matthew 4:18-21), Christ confirms His church (Matt 16:18), Christ loves and died for His church (Ephesians 5:25), and Christ will return for His church (I Thessalonians 4:17). He intended for the church (ekklesia) to be a called out, local assembly of baptized believers who covet together to carry out the Great Commission.

Dear believer, we must not give up on the church that Jesus built. Remember, the church is a family of families. Those that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. The mature needs to disciple the immature. Those on the meat of the Word need to be teaching those on the milk. Pastors need help from those families who are striving to live by biblical principles. This is what we are called to do. Christ said Himself that the wheat and tares would grow together until the harvest (Matthew 13:24-30). True believers must remain strong and true to the Lord’s church. Otherwise, no one is left to fight false teaching. No one is left to take a stand when it matters. No one is left to confront sin in the church. How Christ must grieve when this happens.

Of course, it should be noted that there are times when one must shake the dust off their feet because the people will not change. But this should be done with much prayer. In some cases it would be foolish to stay at a dying church. But if we have to leave one church it should always be to find another. 

“I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee,” Psalm 22:22.

Feminism – The weakening of a society

I just finished reading an article on OneNewsNow about the Rev. Robert Schuller stepping down as lead pastor of Southern California’s Crystal Cathedral megachurch.  It wasn’t his stepping down that caught my attention but the statement that his daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, has taken over the lead role in the church.

God has ordained three institutions upon this Earth and because they are ordained by Him, He establishes how they will operate.  Fortunately, God has not left us uninformed about the roles of men and women in any of these institutions.  Unfortunately, that leaves many men and women without excuse for their behavior.  And because they are without excuse and they continue to blatantly disregard God’s Word, they will sadly be judged accordingly.

 The first institution God established was the family.  We see this in the first few chapters of Genesis.  In Ephesians 5:22-33 and I Peter 3:1-6, we see clearly the hierarchy of the family.  The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.  It is a beautiful picture.   It is a shame when believers distort that picture.  This is done by the wife ruling the family, being unsubmissive, taking on man’s role (to lead, provide, and protect) and rejecting her own role found in Scripture.  It is also done by the husband weakly and passively allowing it.

Secondly, God ordained the institution of the government.  Romans 13 tell us that it is God that ordains the higher powers.  Two years ago, in the middle of our Presidential Election I wrote an article called, His Will Done and My Conscience Clear, which partially addresses women leading in the political arena.  You can read it here.

The third institution that God ordained is the church.  Again, God is very clear in His Word that women are not to lead in this area.  Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.  (1Ti 2:11-14)  This is not an archaic issue or even a cultural one.  The reason Paul gives that women are to not usurp the authority of a man in the church goes all the way back to the order of creation.  God established it this way from the beginning.

 The story of Deborah from Judges Chapter 4 is often cited as rationale for women stepping out from under the hierarchy that God has established.  Women love to ignore the majority of Scripture that is clear on the issue and focus on one story from the Old Testament.  Ironically, in their search to justify their own rebellion they will take the story of Deborah out of context.  Text without context is pretext, pure and simple.  Contextually, the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord.  God raised up Deborah, not to set the standard, but to bring shame upon the men.

“Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. Isaiah 3:11,12.

 We are witnessing our society deteriorate more and more each year.  Those that are leading us are causing us to err.  They are destroying the way of the paths.  What is the solution?  It’s really simple.  We need to get back to God’s Holy Word.  We need to relinquish our pragmatism and start being biblical.  Men need follow the advice of the Apostle Paul from I Corinthians 16:13 and “stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”  And we women need to simply move out of the way and let them lead and watch God once again bless our nation.


Throughout the week not a thought was given

Of the One who died and then was risen

So it was no surprise when Sunday came

That this day would be about the same.

A hectic morning, rushing to and fro

Hurry up! To church we must go!

Where’s the Bible, it hasn’t been seen all week.

Not once have we read of Christ so meek.

Nor prayed to God or our sins confessed

Yet on to church, we want to be blessed!

Beautiful songs rang with words so true

But the meanings of them no one knew

A few words spoken, empty prayers said

Mere ritual from hearts that were dead

The God of Heaven saw no contrition

Looking down only man’s tradition.

So He search below to see if He could find

A people who loved with heart, soul, and mind

Those who seek Him every single day

Who feast on His Word and faithfully pray

One day a week, worship is not done

But daily from rising to setting sun

Then on Sunday, fellowship sweet

With brothers and sisters they will meet

With one accord praise rise to the sky

In thanksgiving worshipping Him on High.

True confessions made from deep within

The cleansing and purifying of their sins.

Fervent prayers bringing fire from above

So encompassing and deep is His great love.

Next Sunday, they looked forward with glee

For no other place they would rather be.