Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jesus on Church

Jesus actually didn't seem to talk much about church. Consider that the gospel writers recorded over 100 verses where Jesus talked about the Kingdom. The term church (ekklēsia) only shows up in two verses in the gospels.

Matt 16:18 (NIV)

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.
Matt 18:15-20 (NIV)
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

The gospel writers Mark, Luke, and John do not record Jesus talking at all about church/ekklesia.

The Greek word Jesus used in the Matthew that we translate as church was ekklesia. This word was not created by Jesus or Christianity. It had a understood meaning in Jesus' days.
"The ecclesia or ekklesia[1] (Greek: ἐκκλησία) was the principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens during its "Golden Age" (480–404 BCE). It was the popular assembly, opened to all male citizens over the age of 18 by Solon in 594 BC meaning that all classes of citizens in Athens were able to participate, even the thetes. The ekklesia opened the doors for all citizens, regardless of class, to nominate and vote for magistrates—indirectly voting for the Areopagus—have the final decision on legislation, war and peace, and have the right to call magistrates to account after their year of office."

Some thoughts:
  • The word church/ekklesia comes with an open participatory flavor. It's roots are with the roots of democracy. All the members at the assembly had an equal voice.
  • What do you think about the picture I selected for this post? When we picture 'church' do we usually visualize it differently than what Jesus was referring to?
  • Jesus didn't focus much on the topic of church. Maybe as followers of Christ we should be more focused on the Kingdom than we are on Church. In my mind there is some overlap between the terms. But maybe we should focus less on attending church, starting churches, building churches, structuring churches, planning for churches, setting church vision, promoting church, etc. ??
  • Jesus said He would build his church. He didn't say we would build His church. Jesus did command us to seek His kingdom and to go and make disciples.
  • At the end of the second passage we may have a simple definition of church according to Jesus. Simply where two or three are gathered in His name.
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Al said...

I couldn't agree more.

Jesus said a LOT more about (his) Kingdom than about what has become our kingdom--church. If we weren't so concerned about building our churches, we wouldn't have to be so careful about who we let in, etc. Jesus was quite happy to welcome absolutely anybody.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Al for the comments. Yes it is Christ's kingdom, and His Church. We often think it's up to us to build and protect... but when we try to control it too much we just make a mess.

I feel I have spent too much time focused on church. Even recently my blogging has been focused on how church can be simplified.

If I take my own advice I should refocus on the task God is calling me to do. If Jesus didn't even talk much about church, I likely shouldn't focus too much on it either.

But I find blogging through this stuff does help sort out my past religious traditions. But I hope I don't stay focused on it much longer.

Thanks for the comment. God bless!