“Church is about what we carry inside of us not about what a few performers demonstrate up on a stage.”
The term Church originated from the Greek word ekklesia. This word refers to the aggregate of the individual people that have been marked as followers of Christ. These followers are not mere religious adherents attending weekly religious education seminars and singing religious songs. These specific people have identified with and joined themselves to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ (spiritually). They have done more than simply confirm that Jesus was a person or that His teachings are good.
To use a biblical term, they have been “baptized” (entered into and been immersed by) the person of Christ, having received spiritual life and offering themselves to God. They recognize and affirm that outside of Christ, life is meaningless and has nothing to offer. As a matter of fact, they do not regard existence outside of Christ as life at all. True life as these “called out ones” might refer to it is only sourced from the spiritual substance that comes from a divinely established connection to God in Jesus Christ.
That being said, Christ is not only a person but a realm or sphere that people can live in or outside of. This sounds very odd but the language of Scripture is clear. We cannot see Jesus merely as a man, but he was the God-man and the full expression of God and man come together. This place of Christ that we enter into and through represent union with God and an entrance for those who pass through Him into what the Scripture calls the “kingdom of God” or the “kingdom of heaven.” This is also referred to in Scripture as “sonship.” That is why the coming of Christ marked the announcement that “the kingdom of God was at hand” or “has come.”
This was the core of Jesus’ early preaching along with his disciples. They were saying that the world you know is passing and has an expiration date and that God in His mercy was offering to all men entrance into a Kingdom that will not pass away. A realm that transcends the broken reality they call the world. This matter of being birthed into a new family, country and realm effects a person practically in so many profound ways (not to mention spiritually, psychologically). Living in Christ is something learned as we acclimate our lives to this newly introduced spiritual element with the aid of His word and Spirit. He teaches us about this new domain and space. He brings to light spiritual reality and shows us the expansive nature and life of God that we now participate in as fellow members of Christ.
In coming to Christ and receiving Him as our life we become spiritual citizens of a kingdom that holds more meaning, value, substance, purpose and mission than our natural citizenry ever did. We are American, or British or Iranian, Israeli or Palestinian by way of birth and domain. There are many intertwined and binding elements that affect actual citizenry of any sort: geolocation, law, lineage, relationship, loyalty, privilege, responsibility and many others. With this citizenry also comes culture comprised and shaped by both origins (sources), shared foundational narratives (history), constitutions/creeds (law) and the evolution of these items brought about by its members (real-time contribution and interpretation over time).
So, to recap. To be truly Christian we believe that spiritual life has been breathed into us. The extension of this faith as overwhelmingly demonstrated through Scripture is that this birth is not an individual one but one of being introduced into a new kingdom. This new country which is eternal in nature and more substantial than any previous alliance and identification in our lives is our new realm of affection and attention. We live for the Kingdom and nothing else as we recognize it’s true value as the only true and lasting reality.
This vision changes the way we interact with the things of this world over time. Part of our ongoing transformation as believers is the integration of this kingdom’s culture into our hearts and minds and our increased immersion in both its values and community. He teaches us about all these things unbelieving layer upon layer of the life and glory we now have as a part of this realm. He also helps us to interpret what this profound spiritual substance looks like as expressed in this world. Under the banner of Christ we have new fellow citizens and values with which we have aligned ourselves and pledged ourselves.
We are now Kingdom before we are Australian, French or Norwegian. This Kingdom is our new found domain and is a fitting space for a new kind of patriotism and comradeship to be born from. We are fueled with an increasing hunger for things that hold spiritual substance and won’t pass away. We are also transformed more into the likeness of God, taking on His nature which is summed up in the word Love. What does an ever increasing community of people rooted in the life, heart, and attitude of God under the authority of Christ look like? This community of “called out ones” is enriched and tapped into resources of a very potent form. They are participants in the divine nature and seeking to move together. They are also, according to Scripture, a testimony to the nations. They are called to be a light to those still chained to or wrapped up in the temporal and passing.
This kingdom expands by love and kindness displayed supernaturally and by the extension of sons and daughters evidencing these kingdom realities in and to the world. This Kingdom that we are now a part of is also referenced to by Paul in the New Testament as a body. This metaphor probably implies the most intimate of relationships and connections we have as participants in God’s kingdom. To be regarded as integrated members of Christ that share the same life and energy as the head is very strong language. We are not only members of a group or community or citizens experiencing the aforementioned effects but we are intricately connected to Christ and the other members of this realm with both purpose and responsibility implied.
An interdependent relationship is implied both with other members and Christ himself. He has given Himself to us on a very radical level and as we offer ourselves to Him and learn to operate in this realm, coordinated with others, we are act and moves as extensions of God’s heart in the world. The mutual serving and submission of each part to one another and to Christ results in a testimony of God and His nature. To be a part of the “called out ones” is to be a part of a divine construction and coordination of Himself in the earth. God is building a house for Himself, the body of a corporate man to fill the earth with his glory and goodness.
This thing called the Church is not brick and mortar. It is not a group huddled under a subset of doctrines governed by a small group of individuals being paid by a legal 501c3 tax-deductible entity. You and I as living beings connected to one another and God are the church. The substance and spiritual reality we have in us and the new spiritual citizenry we participate in is the Church. This living construction of God’s riches embodied in sons and daughters and coordinated under Christ expressing His nature of Love in the earth is the thing you call Church. You are a part of something expansive and potent. Don’t let a cloud of dim rhetoric or the confusion that comes from our old nature or the glamor of an individual or organization rob you of your place in this kingdom.
We carry the Church, we are the Church and in our obedience Church is had, felt and seen. People coming to Church should mean coming to meet a community of people empowered with eternal life and spiritual substance not entering a nicely engineered facility to experience a well-rehearsed performance. The substance of the Church is you, it is us + Christ. The gathering is an opportunity for us to express and clarify the beauty of this amazing thing God has established and the leadership is meant to help it become the building and dynamic force it was intended to be. We pray that all see what the Church is in Christ and that leaders of these communities participate in God’s work to see it built, not stifling it with agendas and ideas incompatible with God’s ultimate goal.
The practical breakdown of Church life stems from this larger picture and I’ll be writing more about our being the Church and what a Church-life rooted in this revelation can look like in the future. My heart, when it comes to “church,” is for it to become the substantial thing God intended it to be and longs for it to be. For each of us to see the amazing level of life and enrichment God has provided for each of us. There is so much more for us to carry and so much more for us to give to one another. The love that God wants to pour through the Church is so grand and all that keeps it from happening is our lack of capacity and transformation. Enlarge us Lord!
Forgive the typos, I am out of office and typing on an iPad this morning. Also, this article is laced with Scripture and based on multiple passages of Scripture but I have not had an opportunity to add references. Will update at the earliest convenience.