Jesus used this Greek term, ekklesia, [Greek word] in describing what He was building. He builds it on the Father’s revelation that He is the Son of God. That is, ecclesia [English word] is built upon the revelation of Jesus as God’s Son.
The testimony of Jesus is the prophetic spirit: Who He is prophesies what God wants man to be. What Jesus is prophesies what God intends man to be, and His kingdom testifies how man should have dominion on earth. That is, the dominion the first Adam lost is restored in the second Adam. Jesus has guaranteed that Father will get what He wants in man and kingdom come.
Jesus says, “I will build My ecclesia, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
What Jesus Didn’t Say
Jesus didn’t say Peter was the foundation of His ecclesia.
People who fail to understand prophetic language and simple simile miss what Jesus is communicating when they assume Jesus meant that Peter is the rock. The Rock is the revelation of Who Jesus is, a revelation that comes to us from the Father.
Father sends Jesus. Father validates Jesus. Father confirms Jesus. But Jesus builds the ecclesia upon this Cornerstone foundation.
The King calls the ecclesia together from the kingdom. Without Jesus being the fullness and fulfillment of what Father wanted man to be, no fullness and fulfillment of man’s dominion on earth is possible. Because Jesus became man, king, redeemer, and restorer, what Jesus created can be fully what Father wanted it to be.
Jesus didn’t say He was building a structure. He wasn’t talking about building a physical facility like Herod’s Temple, Solomon’s Temple, or any temple. Curiously, after making this apparent, people still get this concept confused with respect to “church.” Jesus wasn’t talking about physical structures.
Physical facilities are wonderful tools that help us do the ministry of Jesus better, provide a place for the assembling of called together people, and capture the imagination of man with regards to “church.” God doesn’t live in physical structures, however, but in the ecclesia.
The word “church” used to translate “ekklesia” does have a history of meaning that more closely identifies with a building. The word “ekklesia” does not have any history of meaning that closely identifies with a building, so the use of the word “church” for translation is a poor choice. The term “church” was used to translate “ekklesia” because King James demanded that it be used. In any case, the ecclesia is not a physical edifice.
Jesus didn’t say He was calling people out of the world to be part of His ecclesia. He said He was calling people together from within His kingdom. People called together for His ecclesia must be in His kingdom; they enter His spiritual kingdom by spiritual birth.
While it is true that the word “ekklesia” is a compound word, literally, “called out,” the term “ekklesia” as Jesus used it means “called together in assembly” by its use in literature and Greek and Roman culture and civics. It is valid to speak of our separation from the world or distinction from the world, but the word “ekklesia” isn’t the basis for understanding of that separation or distinction. Our distinction comes from being part of the kingdom of God, and the ecclesia is called together from within the kingdom.
“Born of the Spirit” and “entering the kingdom” are the same thing. We are born into a spiritual kingdom by spiritual birth, and then the King calls us together with other citizens of the kingdom.
Jesus didn’t say that any time two or three Christians are in the same place at the same time, ecclesia is functioning. In the context of Matthew 18, Jesus describes how kingdom business can be accomplished with two or three witnesses. The two or three witnesses are protocols for governing disputes within the kingdom, and Jesus makes it clear that kingdom business can be done with two or three witnesses when they function in His Name.
“Two or three gathered together in My Name” fits into a context of Jesus specifically addressing how to resolve fractured relationships. He says that when any two shall agree concerning the resolution of the issue, two or three witnesses involved in making a kingdom decision about interpersonal conflict can bring full resolution. This is not the same as “tell it to the ecclesia,” but a function of citizens of the kingdom. When the two or three cannot resolve the issue, an ecclesia is called together. Read in the context of the entire discourse, Jesus is making it clear that He is personally involved in dispute that fractures the Body.
In other words, Jesus clarifies that citizens acting within the kingdom can do kingdom business because He is involved, but that is not the same as an ecclesia.
Jesus didn’t say—and I am being overly technical—that He was planting churches. Again, I am being overly technical here and not disparaging the concept of church planting as much as I am pointing toward original design to help us understand the kingdom government function of the ecclesia. Jesus didn’t plant churches and didn’t command anybody else to plant churches. Jesus calls together kingdom people, and commanded His leaders to establish kingdom from which He calls together assemblies. I repeat, I’m not trying to condemn the concept of church planting, but we have mixed terms, redefined terms, and missed original design because we have allowed strategies for “church growth” to frame the Scripture instead of allowing Scripture to frame our strategies. In this way, we have lost large portions of original design and function.
When we establish kingdom, ecclesia happens. Where we establish kingdom, Jesus calls together the citizens of His kingdom for assignment. He has strategies for kingdom growth more than church growth. We have had strategies for church growth that have not produce kingdom growth.
Consider that we can accumulate believers without establishing kingdom, and the resulting “church” that accumulating believers produces may not function with kingdom power and authority. So, to be technical, we establish kingdom and Jesus builds ecclesia.
Jesus didn’t say that He was starting something that people could attend once per week. The assembling of those He calls together occurs! Oh yes! And we should not forsake this assembling together as some have. Ecclesia will have regularly scheduled assembling, announced-ahead-of-time strategic events, and meetings at times convenient for kingdom citizens to attend. Ecclesia will also have strategic events. But, technically speaking “church” isn’t a weekly meeting to be attended. It is a governmental assembly called by Jesus to do kingdom business with kingdom citizens.
What Jesus Did Say
Jesus did say: He has been given a kingdom. His Father gave it to Him. David had already established the kingdom, and Jesus arrived as David’s son to make that kingdom eternal.
Jesus came to do what no other man could do, what Israel failed to do, and what Father wanted from the beginning of creation: ‘take dominion and rule the earth.’
Jesus gave kingdom to His kingdom leaders. He gave them the authority keys of that kingdom. He gave them a spiritual kingdom, a heavenly kingdom, God’s kingdom functioning on earth. He taught them to declare the Father’s Name because that is the Father’s authority. He taught them to declare, “Heavenly kingdom arrive!” because this heavenly kingdom is to be established on earth. He taught them to declare, “God’s will happen!” because what Father wants must be established on earth through kingdom power and authority.
What Jesus did say about His ecclesia had to do with the spiritual transformation such an invasion of kingdom power and authority accomplish on earth: challenge the authority of hell and displace it with greater power and authority, pushing hell back.
“hell will not have enough power to stop this displacement of the ecclesia I am building.” As the kingdom expands, something much greater than accumulating new citizens will happen. The kingdom’s spiritual power and authority will displace the spiritual power and authority of hell.
An ecclesia in a Greek or Roman city would function “at the gates” because that is where the authority of the municipality resided. There the authority of a city would open or close its gates, thus have the power and authority to govern that city. The concept of “gates” was clearly an identification of authority to govern. Jesus says “the gates of hell” because He is referring to the power and authority of His ecclesia over the existing power and authority of hell to govern. So, wherever His kingdom is established, a fundamental spiritual transformation will occur that displaces the authority of hell.
An “ekklesia” was a called together assembly of citizens to determine and decide governmental matters. Jesus used this term to describe the way His kingdom would function. His kingdom would function in ecclesia differently from Greek and Roman culture because His kingdom culture has heavenly protocols, not earthly protocols, but the term that best describes what He is building is “ekklesia.” In other words, Jesus doesn’t do business the same way hell does business. Jesus doesn’t govern the same way the world governs. But Jesus does intend to take over!
Jesus did say that those who are born into His kingdom will be discipled. People certainly need orphanages and refuges and emergency response, but the kingdom of heaven isn’t a “try-to-make-it until I come back” venture.
Our picture of the ecclesia as “called out of the world” often relieves the responsibility to transform it. Such a thought is foreign to the mind of Christ. Jesus never pictured, designed, or established a spiritual kingdom that would survive within the world. He designed a spiritual kingdom with heavenly power and authority to take over the world by displacing the authority of hell wherever it went. We aren’t called to accommodate false religions into a religious subculture in order to accumulate numbers and influence through human strategies as the Roman church has done. Neither are we called to accumulate believers in evangelical subcultures that expand in number without expanding in influence and impact while we await the coming of Jesus.
That is, having babies is not the objective. Expanding the flock as a measurement of success is also foreign to the thinking of Jesus. Jesus never left us with the impression that He could finish His purpose by the accumulation of people; He was clear that He intended His kingdom to function with spiritual power and authority that would disciple cultures.
Our redefinition and redesign of “church” has failed to turn Christians into leaders, babies into mature adults, and mature the kingdom into a culture changing authority. Some would say, “Get people saved and we will fulfill our assignment.” However, the truth is that having half of the population born again would not finish anything! It would begin an enormous kingdom-establishing assignment. It would demand immense personal transformation and maturity. Getting a majority of people born anew does not create a Christian culture.
In fact, our redesign of ecclesia has produced immaturity and fragmentation for several spiritual generations. Ecclesia that fails to turn ordinary Christians into ministering leaders is not producing the kind of leaders who can establish kingdom function on earth as it is in heaven. The kind of leaders Jesus was producing with His ministry is the kind of leaders we should be producing now.
In many cases, we have determined to “win people to Jesus” in a redefinition of ecclesia that leaves them immature for decades. In many cases, we have strategies for church growth that never cross over into discipling at all because they are overwhelmed. Teaching immature, unchanged spiritual children coping mechanisms, survival skills, and institutional dependency is not discipling.
What Jesus did say: “I have been given all heavenly and earthly authority, so wherever you go, disciple nations.” What Jesus didn’t say: “I’m in charge, so go make disciples from within nations and measure success by how many you can get born again.” Most certainly Jesus said to go into the whole world and preach the Gospel, that doing so would bring people to salvation experiences and expand the kingdom population. However, the difference between expanding kingdom population and establishing kingdom is vast. When ecclesia as Jesus designed it functions properly as a governmental assembly, it does more than govern itself; it expands the dominion of the King into the culture where kingdom citizens live.