Our identification as a Christian is not determined and expressed by where we go to church but ‘where’ is important. ‘What?! I thought you just explained in the previous post that where you go does not define the church.’ True, but there is another where that is critical in regards to expressing the church.
This where has to do with being ‘in’ Christ Jesus and He ‘in’ us. This miraculous location determines the formation and the life of the church. A denomination, a building, doctrines, rituals will never make the church the church. Obviously many ‘go to church’ who have Christ within them. That’s great. I am just trying to enlarge our understanding of what is church. If we are in Christ Jesus, having believed on Him and received Him, then we are His church, His temple, His building, His body, His children, His household, His family, and His bride. Wow, that is a lot of identification, significance, and purpose! What a calling! What a divine plan!
Let’s zero in on the word ‘church’. There are about one hundred fourteen references in the New Testament that use the word ‘church’. For those who don’t know this, the Greek meaning of the word ‘church’ in scriptures is ekklesia – from ek – out of, and klesis – a calling (kaleo –to call) – hence, the called-out (ones). The Greeks used the word ekklesia to describe a body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of State. It was an assembly called out by designated officers possessing political power and governing functions. The Greek ekklesia had no resemblance to the church ekklesia in New Testament times. The only similarities would be the dynamic of called out to gather, but the church gathered under the Headship of Jesus Christ only. (Col. 1:18)
The Christian ekklesia seen throughout the New Testament and beyond is composed of people who, by grace, believe in and receive Christ Jesus as their Savior and acknowledge Him as the one True God who expresses the fullness of Deity . (Col. 2:9) Amazingly, and unique from any other religion, this God lives in those who believe in Him. And they live in Him.
His ekklesia, composed of born again believers, is always referred to in scripture as the church or the churches. ‘The’, a definite article which refers to something specific or particular, is important to realize in our understanding of church. By our referring only to ‘church’ it feels like we have impersonalized and dehumanized the meaning of church, thereby basically seeing it in the confines of a man made building. However, the church is an organic living being composed of living stones. (1Peter 2:4,5) We are His building, His house. (1Corinthians 3:9 Hebrews 3:6) We are the church!
This reminds me of a dream I had on December 31, 2006. In the dream I saw a big edifice which actually looked kind of like this church building I happened to see in the news a few days later after the dream. As I looked at the huge structure in the dream, all of a sudden I had an open vision! I saw in the spiritual realm a supposed building to the left of the edifice, about one fifth the height of the edifice. But this small ‘building’ was alive! It was pulsating with life and translucent colors were emanating from it. I was shocked to see this little living spiritual building! Then I began yelling at the top of my lungs (I have no idea to whom) – “Can’t you see it! Can’t you see it! Can’t you see it!” After these three shouts I awoke alarmed at what I had seen and the intensity of my expression. At the time I didn’t understand what He was fully showing me other than the sense that I knew the smaller building represented His church – and obviously it was outside of ‘brick and mortar’. Now over the last few years I am grasping more clearly the organic life of His church. She is meant to pulse with life and interaction of all her members.
The small size of this spiritual building was significant. It speaks of Jesus’ humility and importance of the least. We are prone to be impressed with big size and large numbers. In fact, attendance numbers and size of offerings are often used as signs of God’s blessing and approval. It may not indicate that at all, but may be an indication of how successful man can be through his own ideas, efforts, and zeal.
Paul gives a great explanation in 1Corinthians 12 of how God’s house of living stones, also called His body, shows its fullness of life. Perhaps this passage would be a better measure of the vibrancy of the church as He intends. Paul explains the body is one, yet has many members. The body is not one member, but many. (vs. 12,14) He illustrates that if the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body”, or the ear says, “Because I am not an eye I am not part of the body”, that does not make them less a part of the body. Nor can the eye say to the hand I have no need of you. (vs. 15,16,21) Paul then explains that God composes the body as He desires and designed it that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. (v.18,22) He goes on to say, “those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we are to bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it.” (v.23,24 NAS) Please re-read those last two verses.
Now here is the kicker. Why did God want this seemingly upside down kind of honoring?
“God so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (vs.24,25 NAS) Wow!
Would the question then arise, if there are divisions in the body, who composed that body? Does not even the distinction of clergy and laity create division? Then, who composed that body? Doesn’t it seem to be the norm that more abundant honor and recognition is given to the presentable members, particularly those in charge? Have we lost the fullness of Him in His church because we really don’t have the same care for one another, nor do we give greater honor to those that seem to us to be less necessary?
‘Where’ is the church, really? Do we really know how God sees His church and wants it to be? Is there more fullness to the church than what we have experienced?
- Do you know ‘where’ you are? You may go to church somewhere but being in Him and He in you is the fullness He made available for all of us. Then we get to experience that fullness in and from each other!
- Begin to grasp the incredible significance that you were made for. Don’t let how the world defines significance determine your life and purpose. The significance He has for you is out of this world, yet is to impact this world!
- If you have not experienced honor in the body of Christ and it seems that only a few get the honor, then realize you are not seeing the true fullness of His body. He has more for you and His whole body! Each member of His body, each living stone, is paramount to the full visible expression of Jesus on earth.