By Pastor Paul M Hanssen
What is “The Church”? Who is the church? What does this word actually mean and what is the origin and purpose of this word? By considering these questions and searching for the answers are we able to understand and grasp what the church is or should be all about. Also, it becomes clear where we, the church, have failed?
The word church actually comes from the Greek word ekklesia. The meaning of this word should not come as a surprise, yet for many it will. For centuries the word church has been used to describe a building, a structure, an institution or organization. This is certainly not what Jesus meant when He said “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He was not speaking of an institution or physical structure.
It was the Catholic Establishment that began using the word “church” to refer to a structure, building and institution. This was done as a means of taking control over the people and as an attempt to bring parishioners under the authority of the Clergy and the institutions hierarchy. Without a “building” they would lose control. This was one of the reasons church buildings were built with such grandeur; the purpose being to intimidate, to cause the laity to feel small, insignificant, spell bound and insubstantial. This was used to bring the population under the authority and dominance of church leadership.
However, Ekklesia, church, actually means a calling out. Dr. Luke, when writing the book of Acts, used the word church to describe those whom God had called out of Egypt.
This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness…. (Acts 7:38)
God called His people “out”; out from bondage, out from slavery, out from tyranny, out from oppression, out from ungodliness, out from idolatry, and out from the influence of Egypt, the world. We, the church, have been called out!
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)
God’s call and purpose for His church has not changed. He is still, today, calling His people out. It is the called-out ones that Jesus said He would build upon the Rock of Truth which is the revelation of who He is. (Matthew 16:18).
William Tyndale translated the first English Bible in the 16th century. Upon translating the word ekklesia he used the English word congregation rather than the word church. His purpose was to cause the reader to see the church as a gathering of people, called out ones, rather than a structure of mortar and brick, or an institution of power and control over people. This brought the wrath of the Roman Catholic Clergy down on him and it cost him his life. He was burned at the stake.
Nothing has changed to this date. People would rather be comfortable in belonging to a system of religion rather than being called out from the world. Mainstream Christianity connects their religion to a place, a structure and a location. “I belong to the church on such and such a street”, is commonly heard from the lips of believers, rather than “I am a called out one”. There is nothing wrong with structures or buildings. We need buildings and places to gather and where to worship. God blesses His people with such the like. But the building is not the church! We, the called-out ones are the church joined and built together as a holy temple unto the Lord.
Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
The ultimate fulfillment of this will take place when the church will be called out of this world and gathered together UNTO HIM.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him… (2 Thessalonians 2:1)
This is the church I choose to be a part of. I choose to be one with the called out ones who gather together unto Him!!