Previous spiritual generations have walked us through conflicts and clashes about the power of the Spirit, the authority of the Scriptures, the fundamentals of doctrine, the Providence of God. We are presently walking through clarifications about the original design and definition of “church.” Rifts dating back hundreds of years are being examined, and the very essence of how our faith functions is being challenged.
We aren’t really going to have the opportunity to discuss whether or not this opportunity will come upon us because the crisis is fully upon us already. We are in the struggle of a major kingdom reset involving the definition and design, function and facilitation of “ekklesia.” Million of believers are simply walking away from “church,” many claiming that their exodus is a return to some form of authenticity. It isn’t a return to the original design and definition of Jesus, but a return to previous aberrations that actually produce something fundamentally flawed in terms of the function of the “church” as Jesus originated and defined it.
This reset becomes our responsibility because “church” has lost its way and become something bearing little resemblance to its origins. In some settings, the very idea of “church” has become a byword of scorn, some rejecting the concept of “church” altogether as a way of fixing the recognizable existence of psuedo-church and false church. In others, “church” has morphed into a business or social institution instead of an expression of the kingdom of God.
“Church” has become a very dangerous place for millions of people. Obviously, the solution to false isn’t none. However, a discovery of the authentic will be necessary if we are to successfully return to what Jesus intended.
Not a Return as much as a Discovery
Perhaps we shouldn’t be looking for a return to the past as much as a discovery of the authentic. By “authentic” I mean, Where would we be if we had never strayed away from the original in the first place? By that I mean that we are not going back to the first century, back to Pentecost, but we are discovering what the Ecclesia should be right now, right here. The Ecclesia as an expression of the kingdom of God doesn’t required a start over but a restoration and reset; since it is a demonstration and manifestation of kingdom power and authority, nothing has been lost of its original design and function because the kingdom of God has continued to function without diminishing fullness. That is, the Ecclesia, when seen as a called together assembly of kingdom citizens assigned to fulfill a kingdom purpose, the “church” needs only to function as Jesus designed it in order to manifest its authentic form, its original design and definition.
Restoration will mean that Ecclesia exists and functions as Jesus intended and will have its fullest influence and impact upon the cultures in which it establishes the kingdom of God. Perhaps we should envision mining out something preserved and reserved for a faithful generation more than the examination of dusty history books or the diaries, discussions, and musing of “church fathers” none of which were intended or considered to be authoritative about the Ecclesia. Unfortunately, the church fathers have been quoted to prove a dozen or more offerings of “how church is supposed to be” that are usually reactionary exaggerations or over-emphases upon a particular aspect of our failures to fully implement the kingdom in the Ecclesia.
Discovery of the authentic will come through the same delivery system Jesus used to initialize the Ecclesia. This delivery system can bring the exact, complete, fully-functional Ecclesia to any place or time, fully-formed and filled with power and authority. Why? How? Because the Ecclesia is an expression of the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of God has not missed a beat or step in its maturity even though the history of “church-anity” has failed miserably to demonstrate or manifest the kingdom.
We tend to think that if we build the church Jesus will take care of the kingdom when just the opposite is true: when we establish kingdom, Jesus builds His Ecclesia. If we define “ekklesia” as the “called together into legislative assembly” as we should, then the Ecclesia is a kingdom assembly, a “calling together of kingdom people.” Church isn’t the accumulation of believers “called out of the world” but the “called together assembly” from the kingdom of God.
Called as Assignment, not Invitation
About a third of the time, the root word “kaleo” that is the basis for the word Jesus used for His kingdom assembly means “invitation,” and that meaning gives valid meaning to the use of the term. However, the predominate use and meaning of the word “kaleo” is “chosen, ordained, appointed, or assigned.” That is, if we see the basis of the term “ekklesia” as “assignment,” we see the definition of the church Jesus is constructing more about assignment than accumulation.
While we tend to see the “whosoever will” as invitational because we define church as the accumulation of believers, we fall short of an accurate meaning of the word “church” in the mouth of Jesus. We need to think intentional more than invitational. That is, we need to think about Ecclesia in terms of assignment more than accumulation.
Intention as the basis for Ecclesia moves the individual and those with whom he is assembled into purpose. Invitation as a basis for Ecclesia leaves the individual learning how to remain properly accumulated as an end point: that is, we see called together as the end point instead of called together as a means to accomplishing an assignment.
At the same time, invitation remains fundamental to the kingdom, but it is more fundamental to the kingdom than it is to the Ecclesia. People are invited into the kingdom, then assigned as spiritual citizens to assemble with other kingdom citizens under the leadership of the King and His appointed leadership. The discipling process is more an aspect of kingdom leadership that functions in and through the Ecclesia to accomplish a kingdom assignment: that is, the kingdom citizen is assigned to assemble, and the kingdom leadership in that Ecclesia functions to prepare and position him to function within the work of serving.
Technically, the fivefold leadership of the Ecclesia are kingdom leaders. They function in assignments that produce purpose through the Ecclesia working together properly, but they may function independent of a particular Ecclesia in ways that produce purpose in cities, regions, and nations. Certainly, they would be called “leaders of the Ecclesia,” but they would be so-called because their assignments relate to particular Ecclesias. The point is that the Ecclesia, singular or plural, originates from the kingdom, called together in assembly. We see both personal and corporate purpose in the Ecclesia. but the Ecclesia functions in kingdom authority and power.
Accumulating Leaders and People Isn’t a Movement
When we move away from this kingdom basis for understanding and functioning as Ecclesia, we tend toward division because we fail to relate the individual and corporate assignments to the greater kingdom initiative of Jesus for a city, region, or nation. We also tend to deemphasize discipling as a means of preparing and positioning kingdom leaders to fulfill kingdom purpose. Therefore, we tend to measure success in terms of “church growth” instead of “fulfilling purpose.” We tend to do great things for God in Jesus Name when He doesn’t recognize us or our efforts because they do not fulfill the will of the Father – they do not countenance Father’s purposes for cities, regions, and nations at all, as if these purposes have nothing to do with Ecclesia at all!
We cannot measure effectiveness in numbers no matter what scale we use to measure kingdom. “Getting everybody born again” isn’t the same as “discipling the cultures.” Getting everyone born again won’t fulfill our assignments, in fact, as wonderful as that would be. It would produce a larger immature accumulation of believers and a much larger need for shepherds instead of teachers, prophets, and apostles. Now that we seem to have a better handle on apostles, prophets, and teachers as kingdom leaders, we should be rolling toward the fulfillment of kingdom purposes, but we aren’t. We aren’t because we tend to apply the same measurements to success in this arena as we have to Ecclesia: the accumulation of apostles and prophets, identifiable networking of apostles and prophets that help us prove that they exist and are authentic leaders for the Ecclesia today. We must move past the accumulation of foundational leaders and into the function of foundational leaders in preparing kingdom leaders who can function at an international level.
We don’t want to be limited by political structures to influence and impact government. We don’t want to be limited by natural economic structures to influence and impact the economy. We don’t want to be limited by any cultural structures in our application of kingdom principles and purposes because our source of influence and impact isn’t about numbers, majorities, or population percentages. Certainly there is a factor we could label “strength of numbers,” but that factor isn’t one of determinative distinction.
Kingdom isn’t about accumulations but leadership. Or, perhaps it is better to say, Leaders of kingdom authority who are positioned to function in remnant status. Within any culture, a remnant of kingdom leadership can influence and impact the entire culture in such a way as to disciple it with the redemptive purpose and kingdom principles of Jesus. That is, accumulating identifiable apostles can produce as much division and confusion as church-anity has produced in its poorly-conceived design and definition of church! We need to mature the function of apostles and prophets more than continue to prove our theories that they exist as authentic expressions and representatives of King Jesus. Apostle is as apostle does! In our zeal to prove they exist and are authentic, we have tended toward accumulating them, counting heads, multiplying their numbers in terms of identification as if more apostles and prophets would mean greater accomplishment of kingdom purpose. This has not produced a greater fulfillment of kingdom purposes at all!
For the past three or four decades, we have been fully engaged in the restoration of kingdom leadership. Perhaps, in the beginning, it was advisable and necessary to accumulate apostles and prophets as part of the identification process, but we must move past the accumulation of apostles and prophets if we are to effect real restoration. We haven’t been able to turn the moment into a movement because accumulation doesn’t provide momentum. Accumulation don’t even give us a better opportunity to develop leadership, in and of itself. As long as we emphasize accumulation, we tend toward management and maintenance: having gathered an accumulation, what shall we do with that grouping? How shall we grow and maintain its particular identity as an apostolic network? And, in that process, how can we accumulate more identifiable leaders?
We may easily miss the assignment altogether in this equation!
We are not “called together in assembly” to accumulate but to lead and prepare leaders; therefore, our task isn’t about accumulation but discipling. We must measure our success in terms of prepared, positioned, functioning leadership. We must measure that level of leadership by the same assignment metrics Jesus used: nations. We must produce kingdom leaders who make leaders who can function at an international level, and we must test them by this standard so that an international level of spiritual power and authority are available at the local level.
Defining Ecclesia Properly by Measuring Success Properly
I am doing nothing to diminish the value, priority, and passion of Jesus for the winning of souls! I am, in fact, enhancing that value within the kingdom so that the behavior is vested with greater importance. It would be valid to compare our present definition of church as a nursery or hospital within the context of accumulating believers as a working definition of “church” to a family simply having babies because children are valuable and the accumulation of children would be the greatest level of “success” for a family. However, a family, in the same sense in which I am speaking of Ecclesia, isn’t successful merely producing children but in preparing inheritors.
Take our definition of “harvest,” for example. We fit the words of Jesus about a ripened harvest into the accumulation of believers model and out spits the measurement of success as “the harvest is souls ready to be born again.” Yet, Jesus sees “harvest” in terms of purpose more than people. I don’t say this to diminish the salvation of souls, merely to return us to original design and definition so we can properly measure “success.” If we measure “success” by how well we are preparing and positioning kingdom leaders who function within the Ecclesia in ways that produce God’s purpose for our city, region, and nation, we find ourselves woefully ignorant, ill-equipped, and illegitimate in terms of doing the will of God!
“Harvest” means that things other generations and people have sown are coming to a point of reaping so that mature things will be available. Jesus says, “Pray The Lord of harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest.” Is Jesus, at that moment talking about the accumulation of believers as the needed response? No. He is talking about prepared and positioned leaders who can properly steward purpose, provision, principles, and passion so that The Lord of Harvest gets what He intended from the field that was plowed and sown.
Consider that we need to move from bearing fruit, producing more and much fruit, to fruit that remains on the Vine until matured. This is what the True Vine is after because only ripened fruit provides the Father what He is looking for from the entire production process.