[Following up on previous posts concerning Jesus’ use of the word, ekklesia, in reference to His kingdom, and how what Jesus says and what modern churchanity assumes varies in massive ways, I wish to consider how to define Ecclesia in terms of assignment, location, coverage of a region, and kingdom legislative function.]
We know that Ecclesia has definable application to the entirety of the kingdom, as it is in any given moment internationally, a reference to kingdom citizens en mass as it were, as the dwelling place of Holy Spirit wherever they assemble in ways identifiable from a kingdom perspective. We also know that Ecclesia can meet in a house, a plurality of Ecclesia in a city, region, or nation identifiable by its kingdom makeup and assignment.
We see Jesus bringing accountability to seven city-states, or regional jurisdictions in the Revelation, the stars He holds in His hands in the vision He shares with Apostle John. We have learned from Scripture that Jesus builds His Ecclesia, that He has one. We learn that we can gain understanding of its spiritual function from metaphors like building, body, and bride. We also learn that internal protocols within the Ecclesia may rise to the place of legislative and governmental consideration from two or three witnesses to “the entire Ecclesia,” presumably an Ecclesia definable as “the whole one” in some specific measurement as opposed to the idea that the “entire Ecclesia” worldwide wouldn’t deal with a one-on-one reconciliation even if the communication of that judgment decision was more universal.
So, we can set some parameters for Ecclesia as “more than two or three or small group” and “less than worldwide” when we discuss Ecclesia in a functional sense. As a building, body, or bride metaphorically, we understand Ecclesia to have internal systems, structure or order, shared passion, focus, role, relationship, and covenantal bond with Jesus in ways that cannot be functional as a worldwide Ecclesia nor a two or three or small group without the essentials of kingdom leadership.
“We Are the Church”
We cannot be so hasty in our generalizations that we include “whatever and whenever” in our design and definition of Ecclesia. We have allowed for error in this regard for some time by allowing for the two or three of Matthew 18 to be “church” when Jesus makes this impossible by His own words; so, we cannot fall into the trap that an Ecclesia can be two or three people simply because what two or three are doing is kingdom business: the opposite would be Jesus’ point, in fact, that He is involved in kingdom business involving two or three even when it is not “the entire Ecclesia.”
On the other hand, we cannot be so hasty in our generalizations that we assume “everybody born again” in any geographical or cultural sense all belongs in or to a particular Ecclesia. We cannot design and define “ekklesia” based upon statements often made that use the boundaries of man to set the boundaries of kingdom. To claim, for example, the Ecclesia in a state, city, or neighborhood is the only way Jesus sees His Ecclesia – “there is only one Church in the city” or “you cannot have an Ecclesia here because there already is one” – ascribes expressions of Ecclesia to a category that lacks legitimate Biblical authority. Jesus speaks to Ecclesia only from a kingdom perspective with geographic identifiers secondary to cultural assignments.
That is, Jesus assigns us to disciple “ethnos,” and kingdom is itself a spiritual culture, so we need to understand His design and definition of “ekklesia” in the context of kingdom culture confronting natural culture with an aim to disciple cultures by spiritual influence to better represent the culture of His kingdom.
We have reacted to the idea of “going to church” in ways that move us into dangerous territory. We overreacted to the idea that “church” is a weekly event so dramatically that we are willing to assume that “being the church” can mean anything we personally wish “church” to be. That would be, and is, a grave error!
Church is not your family. Church is not you and yourself. Church is not two or three. Church is not small group gathered for any form of “doing this for Jesus” motif. Church is “ekklesia.” [We previously discussed how the word changed dramatically to mean “building” because of religious and political considerations, and how these considerations make “church” something foreign the word “ekklesia” in the mouth of Jesus.]
We should say, “We are part of the Ecclesia, and part of an assembly of kingdom ekklesia by assignment of the King.” Remember, “ekklesia” does not mean “called out of the world.” Ecclesia means “called together into assembly from within the kingdom.” So, technically, the Ecclesia can be called together in conference with some type of universal assignment as it was in Acts 15, kingdom leaders making judgment decisions from Scripture, experience, and revelation that expands the scope of implementation of a kingdom establishing blueprint. Generally speaking, however, Ecclesia is more commonly definable by cultural assignment and represented by a geographic location in which that culture exists.
“The Ephesian Ecclesia” would refer to a city-state region in which kingdom of God citizens were called into assembly to represent kingdom culture, follow the apostolic and prophetic blueprints to construct a spiritual building, be prepared and positioned as in a body to function in a body system, enter into spiritual covenant with the King as His bride as the representation of the image of God on earth in a kingdom sense. This identity would include the entirety of Ephesian culture, the surrounding region supported by and part of the bounded city, commerce, culture, and politic that Jesus wishes to confront with kingdom and kingdom culture through the powerful spiritual influences that displace rulers, authorities, and cosmic dominators – the strategically positioned authorities of Hades that currently have the greater influence over the people of that identifiable culture and region.
Acts 19 helps us see this blueprinting more clearly, and how in a rather short time, through the leadership of Paul and many leaders he was training, Ephesus and the entire region of Asia Minor were so influenced by kingdom purpose that they became kingdom centers for more than two hundred years!
So, we can’t say, “We are the Church” when we are not accomplishing these goals at some level of cultural influence and impact. We cannot say, “We are the Church” by designing and defining a subculture to avoid confrontation and lessen the discomfort of opposing forces (avoiding the riot that Ecclesia produced in Ephesus recorder in Acts 19, for example). We cannot say, “We are the Church,” when we accumulate believers without influencing the arena of spirit that prevails over the region in which Ecclesia functions.
Elements of Ecclesia
Ecclesia calls together into assembly the kingdom citizens who share assignments given by the King that represent portions of His blueprint designs for building, systems of operation for His body, or covenantal roles and relationships of His bride. We could say we have done well in representing Him when marriage has kingdom meaning in a culture. We could say we have done well representing Him when have revelation sight, power of miracles, signs, and wonders touch the culture through our hands, when the nervous system of the kingdom body assimilates information and communicates it clearly to every body part and extremity and produces coordinated movement, exercise, work force, and mobility. We could say that we have done well representing Him when the land itself has site preparation that provides for building kingdom culture in a place with a people so that a generation in that geographic location produces more and more cultural likeness to the culture of heaven.
We should expect kingdom leadership dynamics to be present and functional: apostles, prophets, teachers, evangels, and shepherds. We should expect these functional leadership dynamics as kingdom leadership for the Ecclesia so that all the leadership dynamics of Jesus, the King, are represented in the Ecclesia. In this way, His representative leaders make Jesus more involved with and within His building, body, and bride than could be possible in any other way! He is Apostle, Prophet, Teacher, Evangel, and Shepherd, so all these leadership dynamics of the King must be present for a kingdom Ecclesia to learn obedience and submission to the King. We should expect this to be very much like the discipling and fathering leadership provided by Jesus as a basis for resetting God’s kingdom on earth so that His finished work on the Cross, overcoming victory in the Resurrection, all-inclusive authority in heaven and earth in the Ascension, and ever-present positioned Intercession with the Father becomes a reality in every kingdom citizen’s life.
We should expect that any and every citizen who refuses to become such a representative faces the process of personal transformation that identifies clearly their hearts so that no misrepresentation of the kingdom culture or misrepresentation of the King becomes a new cultural norm for the Ecclesia. We should expect a clear identification of wolves, bitter rooted people, frauds, perverts, addicts, and rebels as Jude, Paul, Jesus, and John clearly demand. Kingdom leaders should exercise their responsibility and authority to protect the sheep, train each citizen in calling, gifting, and assignment, hold ever citizen accountable through personal relational integrity, and rid the Ecclesia of schism, faction, division, and corrupting leaven by the means Jesus describes.
We should expect that the kingdom expansion comes when born anew individuals begin the process of life change, breaking away from the natural culture to live in kingdom culture (behaviors based upon His righteousness), and taking on a gradually increased responsibility equal to the King’s assignments for their lives.
Alignment, Alliance, Agreement, and Authority
[While to some extent we seem unable to clarify what should be obvious in modern churchanity, remaining in infantile pouts, saying, “Mine, mine!” about toys that represent real trucks and babies while missing the larger kingdom building leadership dynamics that would do more than placate our personal penchant to be someone when we grow up, the kingdom dynamics Jesus uses to build His Ecclesia remain just as real today as they ever have! We can get this right!]
Alignment means that all expressions of Ecclesia, and functional units of Ecclesia, align with the kingdom movement through leadership alliances to forge agreements on strategy so that greater authority becomes available regionally and nationally to gain greater spiritual influence. Knowing that no legitimate conflict could occur between what Jesus assigns one kingdom leader and what Jesus assigns another kingdom leader, we recognize that all conflicts come from human inadequacy, works of flesh dynamics, misrepresentations of the King, and usurpations of territorial integrity such as those to which Paul refers in terms of “going beyond the boundaries of my apostolic assignment.”
Every legitimate expression of Ecclesia best functions in kingdom and kingdom culture when properly aligned with the regional Ecclesia as it aligns with the national Ecclesia so that every expression of Ecclesia, called together into assembly to fulfill a kingdom purpose, has and exercises kingdom authority.
However, do not fall prey to the prevailing distraction and substitute for kingdom alignment best understood by the phrase, “the accumulation of believers.” Do not assume that the number of the crowd gathered, when increased to larger numbers, equates to greater authority, power, influence, or impact. Do not fall prey to the idea that bigger in terms of natural methods, machinery, men, or marketing means bigger spiritual influence when it does not.
Alignment, alliance, and agreement release greater authority, not greater accumulation.