Friday, August 27, 2010

Simple Church, Simply Everywhere

When there is a gathering of at least two people who call on Jesus, there is a church. The church is not a building, or a place, or an event that happens at a special time. The church is not a thing, the church is people! When Jesus said that he would be present in a gathering as small as two believers it was a revolutionary concept. The Jewish tradition was that there had to be at least ten adult male Jews in a village before a synagogue could form. Jesus is giving us the permission to form fellowships any time and any place two or three of his followers gather.

The Greek word translated as "church" in the New Testament is ekklesia, meaning "called out from". Jesus is calling people who would follow him and become part of his ekklesia, his called out ones. It is interesting that this same word translated as "church" when talking about believers is also translated as "assembly" when referring to a crowd of people. The word "church" simply means a called-out group of believers gathered together in Jesus' name - no more, no less! Please read Church Is Not In The Bible for further study.

The early church didn't have any buildings for nearly three hundred years. In fact one of the major teachings in the first century church was that God didn't dwell in temples or buildings. Throughout the New Testament the early church met in homes, in the town square, and in the marketplace (John 4:21-24, Acts 7:48-50 & Acts 17:22-29).

Church happens when two friends have lunch together at school and talk about Jesus. Church is in a cafe as a few gather to read the Bible while sipping coffee. Church is at the bus stop when a person prays for someone with a heavy burden while they wait for the bus together. The church is wherever and whenever people gather in Jesus' name.

Not only did Jesus say that he would be present in our gatherings, Jesus also declared that he had "all authority in heaven and earth" and that he would be with us "always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). This is a powerful truth, this same Jesus who healed the blind and raised the dead is alive today and with us even in our smallest of gatherings!

Jesus promised in Matthew 18:20 to be present in every gathering, large or small, giving us permission to be the Church everywhere believers go. We can tap into the existence of the ever present Christ and his Church at any time, in any place, on any day of the week. Jesus made Church so simple that anyone can do it, it is as simple as two Christians gathered together.

The First Century Church is an example of how simple Church can be and at the same time be powerful enough to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ around the known world. The First Century Church met every day in everyday places - living rooms, markets, work, town squares. The First Century Church was relational, they gathered together regularly, they ate together, they shared what they had with those in need. The First Century Church not only sent out "missionaries" to take the Gospel to the far ends of the earth, they spread the Gospel themselves as they were scattered abroad by persecution. The First Century Church was able to make such an impact that they were accused of turning the world up-side down in less than thirty years - all without cathedrals, professional preachers, seminaries, denominations, missions boards, worship bands, ushers, budget committees, non-profit corporations, etc., etc., etc.

The leaders of the First Century Church were "unschooled, ordinary men" whose only qualifications were that they "had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). The Church was filled with regular folk who were not "wise by human standards" or "influential", and few were of "noble birth" (1 Corinthians 1:26). But those who call on Jesus Christ are declared to be "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9). Each one is considered to be a member of God's priesthood, a minister with a personal ministry to fulfill, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter. 4:10)

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them"
~Jesus (Matthew 18:20)

Peace, Love, and Light!

The painting at top is "Four People On A Bench" by Vincent Van Gogh, September 1882

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