“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.
Recently, I've encountered several posts on Xanga and Revelife regarding Christians leaving the Church. Some, from Brant Hansen, who often blogs about his experiences leaving the "typical American 501-c-3 church structure"
. Some, from various bloggers who talk about their experiences "opting out" of church attendance
, some saying that they feel closer to God when not "going to church" regularly. One blogger encouraged her readers to "skip church" this Easter, to feed the homeless or help a neighbor instead, because "You'll be doing more good than you would sitting on a wooden bench and listening to a story."
And I already referenced Harold Camping
in this blog, the owner of Family Radio, who teaches that all true Christians must leave their local churches, that every local church and every denomination is currently "under the rule of Satan."
It's not my intention to lump these people together--they're all coming from different places and have different reasons for saying what they're saying. Some are questioning the core of what the church is, some only questioning the trappings. But collectively they're all asking one question. Why should people "go to church?" What does it mean to "go to church?" What good does it do? What's it for?1) Origins
The English word "church" comes to us from the Greek--it's derived from the word kuriakon
, which means "The Lord's House" or "The Master's House." But did you know that kuriakon
is not the word used for "church" in the Bible?
In the Bible, the Greek word we translate as "church" is ekklesia
. That literally means, "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly." It's the same word used to refer to the angry crowd in Acts 19. In other words, originally the "church" was the people, not the house.
Jesus himself used the word ekklesia
twice. One was in reference to attempted reconciliation between two feuding brothers, and probably is not relevant; in the other, Jesus says to Peter, "Thou art Peter (petros
), and upon this rock (petra
) I will build my ekklesia
; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Jesus specifically refers to his ekklesia
, his Church, as something he himself will build.
The next time we encounter the word is in Acts. Jesus has already died, resurrected, and ascended. The Holy Spirit just came down on the followers of Jesus. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, just preached an ubersermon--summarizing Jesus' ministry and mission, and essentially acting as the foundation for what was coming next--and a whole bunch of random people joined them because of it. And then we are told this. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer... All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord daily added to the ekklesia
those who were being saved."
You could think of this passage in Acts 2 as the birth of the church. This was its founding.
What do we know so far, from looking at the church's origins? What was the church, originally?
- The church was an assembly of people, consisting of all the followers of Jesus (and thus dedicated, as all things the followers of Jesus do should be, to the glorification of God).
- Jesus claimed that he would build the church.
- Jesus claimed that hell would not be able to defeat the church.
- The church was devoted to the teaching of the apostles.
- The church was devoted to the "breaking of bread" (Communion/fellowship).
- The church was devoted to prayer.
- The members of the church held their possessions communally, and gave to anyone who had need.
- They met in the temple daily, not just weekly. It's not until Acts 20 that we see them slowing down to once-a-week meetings.
- They met in each others' houses.
- They ate together.
I'm not necessarily saying this is exactly how the church must look like in the modern day (for one thing there's no temple anymore), but I do want to look at this as seeing where the church began.
“Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.
Next time in Part 2: The Modern Church