The Greek word used for the church in the New Testament is ekklesia. What exactly does it mean? What picture came to the disciples’ minds when Jesus mentioned the church to them for the first time? The word ekklesia in Greek means, “called out ones.” Called-out from what, and for what purpose?
When Jesus mentioned the church, the disciples were not surprised and did not take Him aside and ask Him for further direction like they did when He taught them how to pray. When we think of the church today, we think of a building with a cross on the top, or we picture a gathering of people singing or listening to a preacher. I wonder what came to the minds of the disciples when they heard the word church for the first time.
The disciples were familiar with the concept of kingdoms having an Ekklesia from both a historic perspective (Israel was a kingdom) and from the political climate in which they were living. They knew Jesus was a King and that every king needed an Ekklesia. It was a political term used in the Greek world and was never used to address a group of people who worshiped, preached, or sang. It was used to represent a group of men who were called out from among the people by a king or government to administer the political, judicial, economic, and social affairs of the people.
When Jesus mentioned the church the first time, it was in the context of a political confrontation. It was a confrontation between two kingdoms: His church and the gates of hades. In this case the two kingdoms are spiritual kingdoms. They are the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.
Each time Jesus mentioned the church He referred to a governing body, not a place of worship. He referred to a group of people who were assigned to exercise authority to solve problems both in the spiritual and in the natural world. In the political world of those days, the Ekklesia was a group of people who were called out—or selected—from the general public to govern the affairs of a kingdom or a nation.
When Jesus referred to the church, He mentioned three things: (1) the fact that He would build it, (2) the idea that there was a battle going on, over which the church has the authority to prevail (solving spiritual problems), and (3) that the church would reconcile relationships (solving natural problems) (Matthew 16:18-19; 18:15-18).
It is very important to understand the big picture of what God has been wanting to accomplish. God is a King, and He has a kingdom He wants to establish on the earth. That is His ultimate plan and objective. Everything He does is geared toward accomplishing that one purpose and nothing else. He wants to reveal His wisdom, glory, and power to the people on earth as well as to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10).
Some people think the concept of the church did not begin until Jesus’ resurrection. That is not true. The church has been on this earth ever since the kingdom of God began to operate here. Every kingdom on this earth had a church or Ekklesia that administered its policies and rules. Without a church, a kingdom cannot operate; and without a kingdom, a church will not survive. The concept of the church was revealed in the Bible and throughout history in both the political and spiritual sense long before the New Testament church began. If anyone says they live in the kingdom and doesn’t want to be a part of an Ekklesia, it is because they lack a true understanding about a kingdom and how it operates.
Every king and kingdom had an Ekklesia that governed its affairs. Jesus added a spiritual dimension to His kingdom when He said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18), because His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. He did not say He would build a worship center, synagogue, or even a cathedral. Jesus is the King and He has a kingdom so He needs an Ekklesia to govern the affairs of His kingdom. That is why He started the church.
In the modern times, each country has a national leader and a governing body that helps him or her govern the affairs of that nation. In the United States, the governing body is called Congress. In the United Kingdom, it is called Parliament. In Israel, it is called the Knesset. The governing body of the kingdom of God is called Ekklesia, or the church.
Jesus refers to the church as something He builds to withstand the operation of hades or the powers of darkness. The above verse refers to a spiritual battle— one the church needs to be prepared to fight. Now the question is: are the gates of hades prevailing in areas of our nation? If so, why? Are there not enough churches to withstand?
If the church is here to administer God’s kingdom, how do we do it in a practical sense? If God is making a “kingdom move” on the earth today, how does each believer take part in it?
If you would like one of our ministry leaders to come and train about how to establish an Ekklesia, please do not hesitate to contact us.
If you would like to know more about the church and how it is supposed to function in this day and age, please read The Power and Authority of the Church and Ekklesia Leaders Manual.