New Testament Church – Part One
As I travel from place to place ministering I see many varieties and forms of “the Church.” The people who gather in these places are “doing church” to the best of their ability. They are faithful and they are doing their best to love people and touch lives for Jesus. However, for many, their are trapped in tradition – doing things a certain way, believing certain things they consider to be truth, and working hard to protect what is important and even considered sacred to the group to which they belong. But, in spite of what may or may not be, they are the Church – the gathering of believers, the called out ones, the ‘ekklesia.’
But, in many ways they are unproductive. Yes, they are faithful. But, they are not fruitful. Few are being saved and entering into the Kingdom as a result of the time, effort, and money being invested in the local assembly. Something needs to change.
God spoke and said, “See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.”
Hebrews 12:25-27 The Message Version
God is, in my opinion speaking those same words to us today. We are the Church and we need to hear what He is saying to us. Not just hear – we need to act upon His Words immediately. It is time to examine the Church as we know it and make the changes needed to become the Church that Jesus is building (Matthew 16:18). This will be the Church of the future. But to understand the future we need to know the past and honestly face the present situation the Church is now called to influence and engage.
The Church has always been on God’s heart. From before the beginning of time, the dateless past. In Ephesians 1, we hear that in a time before time, God took counsel with Himself and conceived an eternal plan. That plan flowed out of the heart of the Father and His obsession to have a people whom He could call His own. We know this as the Church. Paul refers to this obsession as “the eternal purpose.”
Part of this “eternal purpose” is His passionate quest for a bride, a building, and a body. Specifically, God the Son wanted to have a Bride and a Body. God the Father apparently wanted to have a house and a family. So, the story of God’s interaction with human kind, as recorded in the Scriptures, can be summarized as a desire and thus a quest for a bride, a building, and a body.
This divine passion is what gave birth to the Church. The Church, or “ekklesia,” is a spiritual organism, not an organization. It was conceived in eternity past. The Church was born on the Day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2). From there it spread to Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, and then Rome and beyond. As you read the Book of Acts and the epistles, you see the Church’s DNA at work as the regional apostolic centers in these five cities impacted their regions through the fivefold ministry of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.
Let’s spend a few days taking a look at the original Church as found in the New Testament records and add a little bit of the history of the Church and the culture it was birthed in and the cultures that it moved out to impact for the Kingdom. Let’s look at the Church of the past – the New Testament Church.