The word, church, has become a 6-letter word that some people have chosen to hate. For many the word, church, is now associated with a fair measure of emotional, spiritual, and psychological trauma or abuse. They are no longer willing to remain quiet about the trauma they’ve experienced. This is as it should be. All forms of abuse must be brought into the light, as we consider the future of the Christian faith, and the purpose of the church.
Yet the word, church, is just that. It’s a word. In and of itself, the word has no power. For lack of a better scapegoat, people point fingers at an institutional structure that we’ve come to know as, “church.” In reality, it is the emotional baggage associated with the word that holds power within people’s mind.
If the word triggers a negative emotional reaction in an individual, that person will eventually heal, not by avoiding the trigger word, but by examining the emotions and associations that are tangled up in the way we define the word. I know this to be true because I experienced such trauma. Church was never a trigger word for me, but for many years, I could not look at the church building where my personal trauma occurred. I intentionally chose alternate routes of travel to avoid passing by the building. So, I understand the healing process. It takes time.
I believe the institutional model of the church universal violates the vision Jesus imparted. I think the true meaning of the word, church, has yet to be realized.
Ekklesia is the Greek word that is found in Scripture. It means “gathering” or “to gather.” Upon Peter’s acknowledgment that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus envisioned an ekklesia – a gathering that would be built upon the rock of this acknowledgment, Matt. 16:18. But let’s consider the word on a deeper level.
Ekklesia is a gathering of what?
Human bodies gather in community with other bodies who also acknowledge Jesus as Messiah? Is this why Christians began to build physical houses of worship … so that they could gather their bodies in houses where God could sanctify such belief? Perhaps. Yet, God supposedly told David, “I have no need of a house. I intend to prepare a house for YOU, David. I will build YOU a house!” 2 Samuel 7. So, perhaps the gathering of human bodies does not need a house or a building.
Ekklesia is a gathering of what, then?
Minds? Hearts? Spirits? A gathering of mind, heart and spirit, has no need for physical buildings, temples, stones, bricks, mortar, furnishings, pews, sound systems, bulletins, organs, music, hymnals, drums, guitars, big screens, candles, baptismal fonts, communion tables, etc., etc., etc. Yet, humans have insisted that their gatherings have all of these physical components. Additionally, people have insisted that the gathering be limited, or restricted, to like-minded minds. Like-hearted hearts. Like spirited, spirits.
Perhaps Jesus had a different vision in mind when responding to Peter.
Perhaps ekklesia means:
A gathering together in one mind – not one right belief.
A gathering together in one heart – not one right faith.
A gathering together in one spirit – not one right way to worship.
Ekklesia might just be a gathering together in one purpose – one in the same purpose with Jesus’ spiritual identity as the Messiah – to pull together in love so that no person should perish apart from being loved.
The Church of Yesterday was built to gather bodies based on right belief, right faith, and right worship practices.
The Church of Today recognizes the limitations in yesterday’s thinking and the errors fostered by an uninformed definition of ekklesia. The Church of Today is now in a state of correction.
The Church of Tomorrow holds much promise. One by one, people are waking up to the realization that the human race will either pull together in love or perish apart from being loved. People are accepting the fact that right thinking minds, right believing hearts, and right worshipping spirits aren’t necessary when gathering together to love so that no person should perish apart from being loved.
To perish apart from being loved is the polar opposite of the vision Jesus had when Peter acknowledged Jesus as Messiah. Jesus envisioned an ekklesia – a great gathering that would prevent the idea of perishing apart from being loved.