Introduction

Church (Vine’s): ekklesia ; a gathering of citizens called out from their homes; an assembly.

In ancient Greece, and then adopted by the Romans, the ekklesia were a special group of individuals chosen from each societal group (e.g., arts, philosophy, government) to inculcate a conquered country with the Roman way of life. They functioned behind the scenes to infuse (and sometimes force) Roman culture. We see this in Scripture, where the Jewish government was a puppet to the Romans – they could not kill Jesus without Pilate’s approval.

The important truth to note here is that the ekklesia was not a subculture of the society. The Romans in Israel were not trying to be like the Jews. They were a counter-culture intent on making the Jews think like Romans. As we know from history, they rubbed the conquered society the wrong way, so to speak, and the society did not like it. Jewish uprisings were constant and eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

It is no different for the ekklesia of Christ. Our King conquered in His death, burial and resurrection. From its formation, the true Church has stood against both the pagan world and the religious “church”; and it has been persecuted. The Romans eventually crucified thousands of Christians; and we know the Jews played their part in the persecution of the early church.

The call to be a counter-culture ekklesia has not changed in 2000+ years; and the call remains the same in every community, culture and country. The church is the church, and the world is the world. They are at enmity with each other. And the world will hate us when we stand against it – a good measure of our devotion to the Lord’s purpose.

So What is Church Done God’s Way…

What is “Church”?

We must begin this discussion by recognizing that the “church” Christ identified is not an institution, nor a denomination. In fact, the Bible does not say near as much about structure and organization of the “church” as it does about what the “church” is to be doing. We will call this “church life”.

Church life is described in much detail throughout the New Testament. A study of the phrase “one another” (try www.biblegateway.com) will give a detailed – and challenging – revelation of the personal relationships that form the corporate church body. But, that’s not our focus here.

For now, we are going to take a broader, contextual view by examining God’s prescription (aka, way) for church life. We will do this from two perspectives. The first is God’s vision of church life described in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The second is the church in operation that Luke describes in the Acts of the Apostles.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things

into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16

Christ not only died for our sins and was resurrected that we might have life, but He gave us gifts that we might be edified (aka, built up) into the church. And we are to be that church – a temple of living stones, for His habitation. What follower of Jesus Christ would not want the church described in this passage?

  • Equipped – this means fixed for its intended use (like a bone or net).
  • Unity of both faith and knowledge, even unto perfection that is measured by the full stature of Christ.
  • No longer deceived.
  • Able to speak the truth in love.
  • Maturing in all
    things.
  • Knit tightly together (like a hug instead of a handshake).
  • Effectively working – the Greek here is energeo; the energy of ministry.
  • Every part doing its share – no 20% doing 80% of the work.
  • A fellowship building itself up in love.

You may think, “How is this possible? We are so far from this! I can’t imagine how we get there.” It is more than we can think or imagine. Thank goodness building His church is not up to us. And I am sure that He is up to the task.

You might also be thinking, “Sure, this is God’s vision; but I would like to see one in operation.” That’s a reasonable request. So, let’s look at Luke’s description of the true “first” church:

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:40-47

Throughout the history of Christendom, there has been much said about going back to the original church model. And this talk seems to be increasing as we draw closer to the end of the Church Age. In fact, there are groups (even in America) that are pursuing this example of healthy community living.

And it’s no wonder, look at the results. Thousands being added at a time! The Lord adding to the church daily! When was the last time any fellowship in America could claim such Great Commission results?

Is it possible that we have settled for something less because the consequences are too great?

The Consequences

The call to be a counter-culture ekklesia has not changed in 2000+ years; and the call remains the same in every community, culture and country. The church is the church, and the world is the world. They are at enmity with each other. And the world will hate us when we stand against it – a good measure of our devotion to the Lord’s purpose.

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

Rubbing the prevailing society the wrong way is to be expected. So is their resistance, aggravation and (dare we say) offense. The question for us: How will we respond?

It is also important to recognize that enemies have found their way into the church; and, as in Jesus’ day, may be the source of the most severe persecution.

Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Acts 8:1-3

Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. Mark 3:6

But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” John 19:15

Even so, we can trust Him to provide the holy, supernatural courage to implore them.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 2Corinthians 5:20

Conclusion

To be a transforming agent, the Church must consciously and continuously stand apart from the world. Otherwise, there is little hope for either one. It is time we stopped blaming others (including the institutions and denominations), and began to “do church”. There is a lifestyle that belongs to us. A lifestyle of wonder and adventure.

The first step in the adventure is choosing. That’s right. It’s not doing. It’s not even willing ourselves to do it. God is in us for those things (Philippians 2:13). The first step is choosing to surrender to the desire God has placed in us to be a part of the church He is creating. We can trust Him for the rest.

Perhaps this prayer would help: Father God, I choose church your way – for me and my family. I trust You “to will and do to your good pleasure” in preparing and connecting us with others in the church You are building. Give us ears to hear, eyes to see and the courage to obey. Make us living stones for the temple of Your habitation. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does church done God’s way do?
  2. How do you have church God’s way in an institution that has established its own way?
  3. Can you live in the God’s way church in the midst of an institution that has distractions from God’s way? Why not?
  4. Are the institutions we call church really responsible for providing the whole of church life that is done God’s way?
  5. What if our paradigm was such that our activities in the institution were a subset of church God’s way (i.e., our whole lives were an experience of church)?
  6. Does the institution you are in offer a portion of the church done God’s way?
  7. Are you willing to face the consequences of church life done God’s way? Why not?