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My Grandmother taught it to me when I was about eight.
It’s cute and fun and quite clever, except of course that it’s also totally wrong.
It paints the church as the building, but the picture in scripture is that the church is actually the people.
In the Jewish world, the word they used for the building they met in to hear the scriptures, worship and pray was the temple or synagogue. This is NOT the word the New Testament writers used to describe the gathering of Christ’s disciples.
They used the word ‘ecclesia’ which was the term the Greeks used to describe the gathering of the town elders when they came together to make decisions and select the best course of action for the wellbeing of their city together.
It was a social, community-oriented word…not a religious one.
Every reference to the church in the New Testament is a reference to the people – the sons and daughters of God and the job they’ve been given to do in opening the doors to the kingdom in their community.
As we were talking about this together at The Local one of the questions we considered together was what would have happened to Adam and Eve if they’d never sinned?
Somehow, in the eyes of many many people, Christianity has become the religion that’s about making sure you go to heaven when you die (instead of hell, if the alternative is even discussed at all).
Yet this really isn’t the message of scripture at all, and this question - what would have happened to Adam and Eve if they’d never sinned – helps us see how silly the common misunderstanding is.
Adam and Eve’s destiny was never to go to heaven. There wasn’t going to come some point where God was going to say, ‘Oh well, you’ve had enough fun here now – let’s whip those spirits out of your bodies and head off to a world of harps and halos.’ Adam and Eve were made from the Earth and made for the Earth. This place is our home. It’s been tailor made for us, and we’re tailor made for it.
That’s why the book of Revelation speaks of the New Heaven and the New Earth being joined together as the New Heaven comes down to the New Earth.
We damaged this place – but God is going to heal it, not abandon it. He’s gone on record saying how good it is.
And the restoration and rebuilding programme begins on the rock that is the revelation that Jesus really is the Messiah, the Son of God and King of Kings. Once that has been revealed to you, you are ready to lend a hand in the rebuilding work. But get this foundation wrong and what you build won’t last.
This is the conversation Jesus is having with Peter in Matt 16:18.
- The church reflects God’s glory and reveals his wisdom to the world and the angelic powers around us (Ephesians 3:10 and Ephesians 3:21).
- The church extends His invitation to the world around us (Revelation 22:17)
- The church adds salt (‘flavour’) to the meal of life – life is meant to taste better in our company (Matt 5:13…note that people often talk about this verse and interpret salt as a preservative – suggesting that we somehow we are a sort of moral preservative in this dark place that keeps the world from falling into total decay. Whether there’s any merit to that concept or not is beside the point for this verse – Jesus is clearly talking about salt adding ‘taste’ and ‘flavour’ to life, and being discarded when it ceases doing so).
- The church enforces Christ’s victory – he has commanded us to heal the sick, raise the dead, drive out demons, and make disciples who will do the same in His name and carrying His authority (Matthew 10:8, Matthew 28:16-18)
You can’t contain the church in a building with steeples.
Kicking down the gates of hell is what he asks of his people.
Stop going to church – start being church.
As our master said, the harvest is ready but the workers are few (Luke 10:2).
Join the restoration programme.
See you in the trenches.
For those who are interested, here's the slides we used during the discussion.