I am preaching and writing a lot about purpose. Speaking into the context of doing “great things” yet failing to fulfill purpose. I believe this is the essence of what Jesus said about the “many” that will come to the day of ultimate accounting feeling really good about their accomplishments only to discover that Jesus was ignoring them. Jesus says He is intently focused upon those who are accomplishing His Father’s will. It is possible to be a successful achiever of kingdom activities without being a successful fulfiller of kingdom purpose.
So, I believe that God has purpose for the individual called “destiny,” and God has purpose for places, generations, ministries, and nations. Some call these “redemptive purposes.” Jesus created everything with a purpose. Jesus created every person with a destiny. So, all transformation is restoration: He created, redeemed, and now is restoring these destinies and purposes.
The kingdom of God is all about purposes. Since the beginning, Father was looking for men to establish His dominion on the earth and fulfill His purposes. He isn’t looking to fulfill them Himself but to have them fulfilled on the earth through people. In the face of our failure, God became Man in order to redeem and restore what He originally Created. In this way, we end up better off than we were in Eden, carriers of a greater authority and power through the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension, and Intercession of Jesus Christ. We are better positioned and empowered now to fulfill destiny and purpose than ever!
My friends, Apostle Clay and Susan Nash, lead the ministry called, “City Gate with Purpose,” in Southhaven, Mississippi. I was pondering the power of that name for their assignment in the context of what I have believed for years was the best definition of Church based upon the better understanding of the term Jesus used in Matthew 16.
The word Jesus choses to identify His kingdom assembly is “ekklesia.” Of course, Jesus was probably speaking Aramaic and the proper statement would be “the word chosen for the Greek New Testament account written by Matthew.” The Aramaic word is “k’nusta.” Jesus spoke Aramaic but the word “k’nusta” is a word on loan from Hebrew – “kahal.” The more common Hebrew word is “edah” to denote a heap, thus a heap of people or gathering of people. Whatever Jesus spoke, Matthew used “ekklesia” by inspiration of Holy Spirit to record what Jesus said.
The word we have in the Greek is not the Greek for “synagogue” because the terms used in all these languages do not denote a building. The Greek for “called together assembly” certainly answers to the Hebrew and Aramaic terms for “congregation” and “assembly.” My point is that when we put the word in Jesus’ mouth, so to speak, we hear a term that speaks of a “called together assembly,” not a place or building. However, just as importantly, we hear Jesus speaking of an assembly with a purpose.
Ecclesia with Purpose
My premise is that the “calling together” is from the kingdom. The Ecclesia is called from within the kingdom for a specific purpose and assignment as opposed to the picture that the Ecclesia is called out of the world as a gathering of accumulated believers.
This perspective is vital to setting the priorities of function and focus. By definition, the “separation to” aspect of the Ecclesia comes before the “separated from” aspect. While it is certainly true that we are separated from in the sense of “come out from among them and be holy,” this isn’t the first understanding of the word, “ekklesia,” nor the first understanding of the function of the Body. Because we make this assumption, we tend to define the Church in ways contrary to the thinking of Jesus.
The best way to avoid being worldly is to be spiritual. “Live in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the demanding desires of the flesh.” Avoiding the flesh in order to walk in the spirit is the opposite approach from a wholehearted surrender. In the same way, being separated from can be the opposite of separated to. A proper separated from will result in a proper separated to, not the opposite.
We are not defined by ‘what we are not’ but ‘what we are;’ conversely, we can be world class at avoiding worldliness while failing miserably at being holy. Getting better and better at not being something does not develop into maturity of what we are.
When the Church becomes enamored with not being something, they fail at being what they are called to be. Beginning with a negative does not produce the positive. The concept that the Greek meaning of “ekklesia” is “called out of the world” merely pictures a separation from instead of the actual purpose of the Church, “called together assembly,” that denotes being separated to a purpose.
It is purpose that properly defines the Ecclesia, as created destiny defines the individual. Avoiding ‘what we are not’ isn’t God’s strategy for fulfilling personal destiny, and avoiding what the Ecclesia is not isn’t God’s strategy for fulfilling kingdom purpose. When we removed kingdom from our working definition of Church, we left out purpose: the purpose of the Ecclesia comes from the kingdom, and the Ecclesia is called out of the kingdom in assignment assembly. “Assembled for an assignment” is a good working definition of an “ekklesia.”
Read the phrasing of Jesus in this light, and you will discover a very different end point for His discussion. “Where two or three are gathered together in My Name” speaks back a few verses to the “in the mouth of two or three witnesses,” and completes a discussion of the function of Ecclesia, not a definition of Ecclesia. For certain, two or three called together for a purpose can complete that purpose of reestablishing relationship among the brothers, but the idea that “two or three gathered” is the New Testament definition of “church” doesn’t fit the facts or the form. It merely creates the forum for kingdom business.
Read the next verse about kingdom keys in light of this understanding that the Ecclesia is called together in assembly to fulfill purpose and assignment. “I give you the kingdom keys. Whatever is already limited in Heaven, you will limit on Earth; and whatever has been expanded in Heaven, you will expand on Earth.” The keys in the hands of the assembled saints reveals a function for the forum: Jesus builds His Ecclesia and the authority of hell is displaced by its spiritual power and authority. It is the Ecclesia that receives the keys. The believers assembled by Jesus are authorized to establish on earth what He has already established in heaven. The tense of the verb is that something has already been established by the King and He assembles His Ecclesia to establish and enforce that condition of heaven in the earth: “Will of God, happen! On earth as it is in heaven!” A declaration of kingdom authority invested in a people called together by and from the kingdom. Walking around or away from this definition of “ekklesia,” allows variants of “church” that do not and cannot function as the Ecclesia was designed and defined by Jesus.
Are Christians identifiably separated from the world? Yes! Is this the definition of “ekklesia?” No! I’m certainly not arguing against the idea that the culture of the kingdom uniquely differs from the cultures of the nations, and that a kingdom culture will confront and transform the cultures we disciple. I am not dismissing the idea that believers should live out a citizenship into which they are enrolled when they are born anew, when they first can enter and see the kingdom.
I am simply looking at the function of the Ecclesia in terms of the purpose for which this assembly was created, defined, and assigned function, and I think that another look at the terms used and the general presuppositions behind Jesus’ words are different from those we have come to accept. I think a radical change is needed in our perspective if we are to restore the original intentions of Jesus, the definition of Church that is in His mind, and the function of leadership, mission, and assignment that His ideas assume. I believe that this restoration is the assignment of this spiritual generation.
I am concerned with the maturity of the apostolic and prophetic foundations that have been restored, and their maturity is tied to their function. After much discussion about recognizing and using the titles, we are ready finally get some focus on the function of the foundational leadership that has been restored to the Church. Apostle is as apostle does. Prophet is as prophet does. Endless discussions about using the titles has changed the subject and focus from restored function to another way of saying and acting the same way as we did before.
Restoration means transformation; all transformation is restoration. So, we should be acting differently, functioning differently – so differently that we recognize that things ain’t never gonna be the same again! It has been the observable function of apostles and prophets that clarified my life, not the endless discussions about titles. Do they or don’t they? If they do, they are.
Other generations were assigned to restore important missing aspects of the kingdom. Luther restored the priesthood of the believer. Calvin the Sovereignty of God. Wesley the witness of the Spirit. Some generations helped restore healing and miracles to the Body. Azusa Street restored the full work, gifts, and operations of the Spirit. Another generation defended the authority of the Scriptures. We have seen the restoration of intercession, prophets and apostles in the past decades without the accompanying false doctrines of super-saintliness.
None of these restorations have been perfect, but each supplied subsequent generations with expand foundations upon which to rebuild authentic Ecclesia. What faded out and was lost, faded back in. A progressive restoration of what faded out from the first centuries of the faith, fading back in reverse of how they were lost, and brought the greatest opportunity for full kingdom function since the earliest days of the Church.
I believe this generation will restore the definition and original design of Ecclesia! In the fullness of time, by the fullness of Spirit, we will experience the fullness of the Church.
Each generation carried all that had been restored with it. Building upon previous restoration, they made something else that had been lost available. The Ecclesia now walks in greater fullness and is empowered for greater fulfillment than at any time since the first two or three spiritual generations of Her existence. While many have espoused dispensational doctrines that diminish the power and authority to the Church concluding the last days will produce the least powerful expression of Jesus’ original design, the reality is that the Ecclesia today walks in greater fullness so She can produce greater fulfillment of kingdom purpose! In this fullness, She is positioned to establish kingdom and fulfill purpose: fullness for fulfillment.
All transformation is restoration. In order to measure transformation, we must have a revelation of purpose from a good understanding of original design. This understanding comes from revelation and is established with spiritual authority.
What the Church looks like when fully restored must be our success measurement standard. While Ephesians 4 makes it clear that Jesus had a original strategy for fullness, the kingdom was removed from the Church by doctrines of limitation, teachings based upon faulty definitions of “ekklesia” that fit into manmade systems of thought and function. Ephesians 4 says Jesus gifted the Body with a form and function of leadership that produces fullness; and all we need to do is mature this leadership into full function so we experience greater expression of the mission of the Master in our spiritual generation.
The “til we all arrive at” portion of this discussion in Ephesians 4 speaks to the process of restoration, but the process of restoration demands the progress of transformation. That is, no matter how long you’ve been at it, you have to be transformed personally in order to function in the restoration conditions of the Ecclesia. The restoration demands transformation. No matter how long an ecclesia has been around, without transformation it will not fit the restoration conditions of today’s Ecclesia.
Discipling is transformational, and the leadership Jesus designed and bestowed upon His Church transforms individuals and cultures. When we measure churchanity by this Biblical standard, we surely come to the conclusion that we aren’t doing something right! While we do have most of the functioning pieces now available to us, we still need to mature the fivefold ministry functions. We still need to streamline the function of Ecclesia so that this bedrock of original intention shines through every aspect of our leadership dynamics.
We aren’t there yet but we do see amazing glimpses! Sometimes we hit upon this spiritual reality like a prob hitting the mainline and all heaven breaks loose!
My thought is that we cannot see the full function for a mature fivefold ministry without restoring the original design of the Ecclesia. I believe this is the task of our generation, and we are set in place with all we need to make it happen! Reach for it! Expect it! Change to be changed – repent – so that you are personally ready!