Tonight is going to be more of a teaching session where I wish to speak on what The Furnace will look like when we grow. A look into the future. If you were here during the beginning stages of this church, I spoke on the vision God gave me of this church in the broader sense, but I want to talk about what who we will be in the community other than another building, or named entity of believers here in Kenosha.
For many years I have thought about what the “Church” was. The worldwide church, the church associated in geographical areas, such as continents, countries, and even those in cities and towns. My mind always stuck on Acts 2, and the church during those times.
About how the church in Acts 2 grew so rapidly, and why we seem to be stagnant today with growth. We have seen different variations of the “church” since its inception, but there seems to be some movement to find its true roots again today, and that probably by the prompting of the Holy Spirit to prepare us for the end-time harvest.
Looking at the church today, we have a movement back to house churches here in the US with many reasons behind that which we can talk about some other time, but the church especially in America is really diverse with mega-churches, super-mega churches, as well as everything in between to the small churches like this one, with the average church being 100 people or below. With many of these churches following a similar model that was established hundreds of years ago. Even the upcoming churches that have had exponential growth, follow a similar model, all man made in my opinion.
My questions to all of this directed to Jesus is, “What did you really intend for us?” Or what we have, is this what was intended? What do you want us here at The Furnace to be? I want to do it right.
There is no so called real model given in the Bible, and all we have is what we read that the church did in the beginning of the Book of Acts and what we read in Paul’s writings. We seem to have evolved into this corporate style church of sorts on the larger scale in the free world, with denominations, and church government hierarchy, with all this structure, but again, was this what Jesus’ intention for His people?
Also, is this corporate style church really having any impact?
When Jesus spoke of us as a group of His followers, or believers in the future tense, He used the word Ekklesia for us. A Greek word that we say today means church.
The first mention of the word “church” in our English language Bibles is in the New Testament in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus is speaking of His disciple Peter.
Mat 16:18-19, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
When you look in the Strong’s Concordance of the Bible that I use all the time, and look at the word “Church”, you see that it comes from the Greek word Ekklesia. EKKLESIA.
Ekklesia, the actual word used in the early scriptures that was supposedly spoken by Jesus. The Latin word for Ekklesia, is spelled ECCLESIA. You see that around today. Both having the same meaning as the Hebrew word Qahal. All three having the same meaning. But not the meaning we may think.
Greek, Latin, and Hebrew was all spoken in Israel during Jesus time, and Aramaic, more of a poor people’s language. If Jesus spoke in Aramaic, He would not have said any word to be interpreted for the word church, because in the Aramaic language there was no word for church. Only later when the Aramaic Gospels were written, they used the word “Witness” to describe Believers.
But back to Strong’s and the breakdown of the word Ekklesia that I am focusing on tonight.
Ekklesia is a word derived from a Greek preposition and a word. Ek, a primary preposition denoting “origin”, or a point when motion or action proceeds. Something heavenly, highly, being among, and through to completion. That’s a lot for just an E and K. EK.
And the word is the Greek word “Kaleo”, meaning to call, or call out, or call forth. That is the root of the word Ekklesia.
The complete word Ekklesia’s description is “meeting, assembly, or congregation.” In other words, a place where people are called out to come together, a place of origin, where action proceeds through to completion. Not really in the context what we may feel a church is in our current societal definition.
This word Ekklesia is actually mentioned in the Bible ~115 time actually, and not only in the New Testament, but also used in the Old Testament. I found a verse where it was used.
Deut. 4:10 “Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children."
So when God spoke to Moses, He said, “Ekklesia the people before me. Gather and assemble the people. So this word Ekklesia is used throughout the Bible mainly for the assembly or a gathering of people. Jesus only used this word three times concerning the “church”. Jesus did not focus that much on the gathering of people, but focused more on the person. So this got me thinking.
Why did Jesus use the word Ekklesia when referring to the church or referring to us?
What I found was the word for “church” used in our English Bibles does not line up with what Jesus said or really implied for His people.
When we think of church today, three things pop up. One a church building, and secondly a specific body of believers, and thirdly the church universal. We use all of these references all the time. And really there is nothing wrong with that. It is branded in our culture.
But the word Ekklesia meant I believe what Jesus implied from the actual definition of the day.
An assembly, an organized or purposeful gathering. It also means, congregation. We use the word congregation as those in a church. It probably came from that, but it was originally meant as an assembly of people, not like you’re a member of some church.
The true Ekklesia definition was about any people gathered with purpose. And yes you can say, when a group of believers comes together we are people of purpose, so we do fall into the definition, but not as originally intended.
It was used to refer to a group of persons that were organized together for a common purpose for religious or secular activities. And I imagine you are saying, “yes we do come together for religious activities”, but let me continue.
The term Ekklesia was used by the people of the whole Mediterranean region for regular business and life. It was a secular term. It was a regular known term used by everyone.
So again, why would Jesus use this common term for His body of believers, those who followed Him? Why not use some religious term? You see the Greeks, the Romans, and even the Jews used this term regularly, so Jesus spoke a term that people could easily identify with.
Because the secular word ekklesia, derived from ek-kaleo, was used to call a popular assembly of the competent full citizens of the city. This assembly may meet at regular intervals for many different reasons. Just like when Moses called all of the leaders of the tribes together to discuss matters. The large gatherings of ekklesia in pagan cities were actually opened with prayers and sacrifices to the gods of their city. So the people that Jesus spoke to were already doing this.
In the New Testament era, when society met somewhere for religious purposes they used a word such as thiasos. It was pagan, and it was worship generally at a pagan worship site. The Jews had their name for their religious meeting place, the “synagogue”. Early believers met either there, or at the Temple. But primarily in large gathering places or in homes.
The word synagogue to the Jew was to denote the place of meetings. There wasn’t a word for “church” per say for believers to meet, nor were the believers even called the church. They were called Christians, and the Apostle Paul called them the household of faith.
The English dictionary reveals that the English word "church" which is used in our English Language Bibles is taken from the late Greek word kyriakon not Ekklesia."
The Greek word kyriakon is not even found in the New Testament, its origin from the Greek kuriakon doma ' Lord's house'. The root word Kuriakos means “pertaining to the Lord”, and the Greek word kuriakon eventually came to be used in the Old English form to mean "church" as a building. We do pertain to the Lord as believers, and we do meet in the Lord’s house, but as for Jesus’ description for His people, it was quite different. The true word for church in the Greek was really was about a building or a place to meet.
And the reason for this word change in our English Bibles from Ekklesia to kuriakon was because of King James. He took Kingly liberty to have the word “church” put in place of the correct word “assembly”, because of universalism that was thriving in his day and also from pressure from the Anglican Church, and that’s a long read in itself about the politics of his day and pressures he had to put up with in the creation of what we know today as the King James Bible. So you can blame it on him.
I was surprised when I read that, and if figures, men attempting to manipulate the Word of God for their purposes. This word “church”, I believe took away from the expression that Jesus intended for His Believers.
Ekklesia was not what the “church” ended up looking like over time.
Now I imagine that after so many years, the church morphed into what we see it today where people gather on a prescribed day and time to meet. But I believe what it did was get believers to congregate in one place, and over time, make that place, their only place to worship God, and place to do ministry.
When Jesus spoke about Ekklesia, it was not about meeting in a prescribed place to do what we call church, because the Jews already had a prescribed place, the synagogue. The Jews also had the Temple. The Temple was where the Presence of God was. The synagogue was where teaching took place, so no need for another gathering place, and the people already knew about Ekklesia because they were doing that already.
Jesus knew that the people knew what Ekklesia was when He used the word, and Jesus also knew that if these group of believers stayed in the Synagogue, or in a building of some sort, it would kill the spread of the Gospel. The Gospel was transformational and had to be in the public sector to flourish.
What happened was massive spiritual renewal using Ekklesia because people were not bound by a building or location. Ekklesia was 24/7. It was not bound by walls.
Ekklesia was all about being in the community, and spreading the Gospel, and healing the sick, and setting the captives free. And it worked. In no time, the Gospel spread among the whole region. When you got outside Israel, all of the forward movement happened in the community, and in the gatherings and assemblies.
I hope you see where I am going here. Jesus never intended His people who were called by His name, to close themselves in to their own private little communities. He intended them to go out, and be out among the people, assembling with people who did not know Him, bringing healing to them. Showing them love, and giving them the expression of the Kingdom. Preaching the Gospel.
An example is shown in Acts 2:47 what Ekklesia did for the new believers. It says they were, "Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the (ekklesia) daily such as should be saved." The context of the verses in Acts 2: specifically identifies these people who were meeting as those who were saved on the day of Pentecost. In their community circles where they lived, they made impact for the Kingdom of God. They did not congregate in a place waiting for people to come in. They met at the Temple, yes, but their primary mission was outside the Temple to meet in the Ekklesia. Meet where the people gathered. Jesus hung out with the people where they ate, no different.
I would like to state that this “congregation” of people, like what we would call the church today, met regularly as it states in the Book of Acts, and broke bread, holding communion together, discipling each other, hanging out together and eating together. They created community. And as one author said, “Jesus turned tables into pulpits.” Just as Jesus met with His Disciples over food, Ekklesia gatherings, or people gatherings met at the dinner table.
They met over food. Where strangers were welcome. It made them prime candidates for evangelism, and prime candidates for healing, and restoration.
Community not in the fashion where it is cliquish, but where it is inviting to anyone.
We have food here after our services here to hang out so we can build our community by being together.
So I am praying that in the future when we grow, we will be like the Church in the Book of Acts.
We have the Holy Spirit in us, so we have no need for a brick or wood temple to be in His presence, because His presence is in us. We have our meeting place, our synagogue of sorts for teaching and the building up of the body, so Ekklesia is the next step for us.
Jesus said that He would build His Ekklesia on Himself really in Matt 16. He is the Rock, and the gates of hell would not prevail against Him or His Ekklesia or church. In other words, we that go out into the market or business place, or our neighborhoods, and social gathers, and move among the people like Jesus did and bring the Kingdom of heaven with us, nothing can come against us. Jesus said,
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
So He has given us power to move mountains for the people in the Ekklesia, in the gatherings so our Father in Heaven will be glorified, and people will come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
And thinking about it, now you see why it is so important was for a local assembly to have the five-fold gifts evident in their gatherings, as well as having the Spiritual gifts active. The gathering of believers was created to be autonomous in their gatherings where they had influence. It wasn’t about bringing someone in from the outside to administrate, evangelize, pastor, heal, or prophecy. The local gathering was empowered, or I will say the local church as we will continue to call it today.
We have the presence in us, we come in here to be built up and be strengthened and then sent out, and live in the power of the Holy Spirit giving out the gifts freely to those in need adding them to the kingdom daily just as in Jesus day.
That is one of the goals here at The Furnace. That as we grow, we will establish home gatherings throughout the city fulfilling Acts 2, inviting people into those fellowships to break bread and bring Jesus in to heal people, and for us to disciple the new believers. We will also be a part of other gatherings of believers throughout the city and the region bringing Jesus there also. That is what Jesus wanted with His Ekklesia.
Yes, we are the church, we are not changing that, or saying we are not that. It is in our DNA now. But we will be the church that Christ intended, who like Him, will be out among the people giving them Jesus, and healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing those with diseases, and casting out evil spirits. Because freely we have received, and freely we will give.
Jesus is speaking to His church today. He is saying today is the day of salvation. The harvest is ripe and ready, be the harvesters. I am calling you out. I have given you power. Do it now, because the time is short.
Thrive in the masses. Bring the Kingdom into your gatherings, and you will walk from glory to glory, and my Kingdom will come, and my will, will be done through you on earth as it is in heaven. Amen!