Toward A Functional Ecclesiology… (Part 1 of 2)

Image by Chewbacski via Flickr

…or, as Dave Black put it, “What Does a New Testament Church Look Like?

I liked what he wrote so much I will simply quote it verbatim:

I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

I am convinced of the normacy of tentmaking leadership.

I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient — efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

I am convinced that the church is a multigenerational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

In conclusion, the fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.


How did the church in China grow from 2 million to 120 million in 60 years?

Great new video posted on the Verge Network featuring Alan Hirsch giving a workshop on Organic Systems.

He attributes the growth to the lack of a centralized and defined leadership.  The exponential growth is a direct result of an organic system:

Everyone gets to play…everyone.  And we’ve locked all that up because we’ve professionalized the ministry.

He goes on to discuss the negative effects of ordination and the clergy/laity distinction:

If I were the Devil and I wanted to strike a real blow at the people movement (the exponential growth) one of the best ways to do it would be to create a clergy class and a laity class.

I couldn’t agree more!

On the positive side, he presses into the early church model of everyone serving as they are gifted as found in Ephesians 4:

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I agree with Hirsch that one cannot find a developed/centralized leadership expressed in the New Testament and that is why there was such success in the beginning years of the church.

Conversely, the church, especially in the West has become almost universally stagnant in its most recognized and accepted form.

It is certainly refreshing to see so many people interested in moving up and out of the current and ill-fated systems of programmatic church for the real life seen not only in the New Testament, but clearly in China, India and many other parts of the world.

Church Buildings Are Like Ghosts!

I absolutely HAD to post this up today!

Aside from a good laugh, I see this as one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the church: the fact that most people and many Christians believe the church is a building.

Cruise through the New Testament and see if you can find a building called the church…

On The Meaning Of Church – Bill Mounce

Just read a great post on the meaning of the word “church” over on  You can read the whole post here.

I almost wholeheartedly agree with Bill here, so I thought I would highlight some things I especially appreciated and also take him to task on a couple others.

Bill replies to the typical Historical Protestant response to the definition of church, “where the gospel is taught rightly, the sacraments served properly, and church discipline exercised.”

“Of course, this definition has virtually nothing to do with the biblical text and more to do with the reformers attempt to distinguish themselves from the Roman Catholic church.”

I find this to be a very good point.  First of all, this is clearly separatist language.  Second, while it does address a historical issue, it clearly avoids a more biblically based definition.  Such a definition may correctly reflect a certain theological persuasion, but lacks scriptural merit.

So, he goes on to define the church/ekklesia as:

“…the community of believers who have been “called out” of the world to belong to King Jesus. It is never identified with a building but always with the people. The church may meet in a building, but it is not the building, the home; the church is the people (e.g., Phlm 2; Col 4:15). The true church is the visible expression of the expanding Kingdom of God.”

And then further states:

“There is only one church, the church universal, and there are local expressions of the church in various places at various times. The church is never to be equated with buildings or institutions or denominations.”

But this really gets to the essence of the church:

“The church is the community of believers who meet together, regularly and irregularly, to love one another, care for one another, carry one another’s burdens, stir up one another to love and good works, confess their sins to one another. “

And the pièce de résistance is his commentary on the above:

“When was the last time any of this happened in a large room with well-dressed people and the organ or drums blaring? If an institution is not carrying out the requirements Scripture places on the church, is it the church?”

Now, why is this so important? 

Because so many Christians have been culturally conditioned to think of church as either a place to go on Sunday or worse “God’s house/temple” where they can meet him during a worship service.

If there is one thing that I believe we need to get straight it is this – the church is a community. 

So much of what Christians do in the name of “church” these days is nothing but the dead weight of about 1,800 years of failing to grasp the truth and simplicity of what God intended and replacing it with unnecessary tradition and obligation.  But more on this in a later post…

So the only place I disagreed with Bill is when he wrote:

“The church is the community of the king that gathers together on a regular basis to preach the gospel and fulfill the one anothers in Scripture.”

I still see a little bit of that Reformation answer in saying that the church gathers on a regular basis “to preach the gospel.”  But without further clarification, I can’t say that I wholeheartedly disagree with him. 

In other words, I don’t believe that every time the church gets together that the gospel must be preached in the form of a sermon.  That said, I do believe that the gospel message is more of a natural byproduct or fruit of the church since the basis of their meeting is in Christ and in the life that he provides.  This message, then can be shared in many different ways.

So, I was quite happy to see that Bill Mounce took this approach, though I am not at all surprised that he did since his specialty is the Greek New Testament.  But one does not need to read Greek to pick up the New Testament and see that the church looks quite different there than it does on most Sunday mornings these days.

The Embryonic Church

How interesting and convenient that as I was perusing Frank Viola’s blog  Reimagining Church that I came across his well-reasoned thoughts on the kingdom vs. church debate

Now, I realize that some may see this as a moot point and others may not even know of the rationale behind it, so I will elaborate just a bit. 

Basically, some people reason that since Jesus only mentions the church (εκκλεσια) a couple times, but mentions the kingdom (βασιλεια) many times in the gospels, that Jesus’ primary focus was the kingdom and not necessarily the church. 

Now, while I see the major premise I miss the minor premise entirely.  But this is probably why I appreciated so much what Frank had to say, and it caused me to realize that over here on ECS (Early Church Studies) perhaps I should put forth my very general thoughts on the church as seen in the gospels. 

I agree with Frank here:

“What is ekklesia (church) in the NT? It’s a community of believers who share a common life in Christ, assembly together regularly, and make Jesus central, supreme, and head over their lives together.”

So, he reasons, the disciples (“the Twelve”) and what Luke calls “the Women” were “the embryonic expression of the ekklesia.”

Further, he writes,

“Consequently, every time you see the Twelve with Jesus (and the Women) in the Gospels, you’re seeing the church.

And virtually every time Jesus spoke to His disciples and used the word ‘you’ …

‘YOU are the light of the world.’

‘YOU are the salt of the earth.’

‘And when the Spirit comes, He will teach YOU all things.’

‘I am the Vine, YOU are the branches’ …

He was referring to the church.

And when John uses the word ‘we,’ he is often speaking of the church …”

So, I thought that this is a very nice way to put it – embryonic church.  And much like the debate centered around the pro-life/pro-choice movement, I suppose there can be debate over when the church is officially considered to be alive, so to speak.  Seems that many place the birth of the church at Pentecost in Acts 2.  At least this is where it is most obviously present.  But I tend to agree with Frank on this, and have done so, at least subconsciously for some time.

Which brings me to the bottom line.  The church is indeed present in the gospel accounts, at least implicitly if not explicitly.  And this is where much of my current interest lies as I slowly plod through the gospel attributed to Mark…the gospel many believe to be the first widely received by the church.

Let’s see what turns up!