Since 2014, I’ve had ebbs and flows in my thoughts regarding the church. When I lay aside these studies, they inevitably come back seeking further clarity and resolution until I grow weary and lay them down again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
In that year, I was taking a seminary course called the Doctrine of the Church where we looked at every single use of “church” in the Scriptures. Note that I didn’t simply say use of church in the New Testament. That’s because the Greek word, ekklesia, translated church in our English Bibles (a poor translation by the way), is also in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) quite frequently. It is a common translation of the Hebrew word qahal, which our English Bibles translate as assembly or congregation (hold on to that).
So the concept of ekklesia, or what we read translated as church, is not an entirely New Testament idea. We must also allow the Old Testament to inform our understanding of how we define church. Want a practical implication of this?—How often have you been taught that the church was formed at Pentecost? Really? Then we need to explain how the church was in the wilderness with Moses, as described by Stephen in Acts 7:38 as well as the more than 100 times ekklesia appears in the Greek Septuagint. There is both continuity and discontinuity from Old to New Testaments regarding ekklesia.
I’ll hope to unpack all this in the future, but for now I simply want to lay out some thoughts or better, questions, much like I did in the post “Who or What determines how you worship?” As there, so also here, the Scriptures must be our final authority.
- What is an ekklesia?
- What is the church? A building, event, identity, or other (denomination)?
- Does church require a building?
- Can we leave the church?
- Can you become a member of a church?
- Who runs the church?
- Is the church a 501c organization?
- Is the church universal?
- Is the church invisible?
- Is the church an institution?
- Is church history monolithic?
- Is Christ building His church eschatological?
- What does Christ intend to communicate to Peter (and us) by the statement, “Feed my sheep”?
- Is there a biblical distinction or hierarchy between clergy and laity?
- Are “pastors” the only preachers?
- What is preaching?
- What is teaching?
- Is pastoring a profession/vocation?
- Is a formal seminary education required to “pastor” or preach?
- Is church a worship service?
- Is church participatory or non-participatory?
- What are the implications of 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 on our churches?
- Where did our modern expression of church come from, Scripture or tradition?
- Can we build a church?
- Can we plant a church?
What about you? What are you thoughts on church? Have you thought about it with Scripture as your guide? Have you wrestled with what you see versus what Scripture describes? Have you ever stopped to ask, wait…now why are we doing this?
My goal is not to ask why as an end to itself. My goal is to more conform my life to the Word of Almighty God and participate in His ekklesia as He has directed.