Tag Archives: ecclesia

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 4) — We Are an Army

In Christian circles, we often refer to the Church as an army. We sing Onward Christian Soldiers, God’s Got an Army, and the children’s song, I’m in the Lord’s Army! Unquestionably, warfare is a major theme throughout the Bible. The physical warfare so prevalent in the Old Testament becomes the spiritual warfare of the New.

Surprisingly though, while the Old Testament frequently refers to the armies of Israel, the New Testament only uses the word “army” or “armies” for the Church once, in Revelation 19:14: “And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” The context is Jesus’ return to earth to rule and reign. He is accompanied by the already raptured and glorified Church. We know this is the Church because of the emphasis upon their apparel, which is “white and clean.”

We do have a number of verses which speak of Christians as soldiers engaged in combat:

Ephesians 6:11-18 — the familiar passage about putting on the whole armor of God

Romans 13:12… Let us put on the armor of light.”

2 Timothy 2:3, 4 “Therefore, endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man going to war entangles himself with the affairs of this life, so that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier.”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 — “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds), casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

We also have several verses on overcoming and triumphing in the context of spiritual warfare.

One of the clearest implications of the Church being an army is given by Jesus, in Matthew 16:18. Peter has just professed His belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (v. 16). Jesus then comments, “Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That sounds like the Church will be engaging together in warfare — assaulting the gates of the enemy and winning the battle.

So, that’s what we’ve got in the Bible — Israel fighting together as an army for the sake of their family inheritance, several references to the Church engaging in spiritual warfare individually and together as a group, and finally, the Church appearing as the armies in heaven who follow Jesus back to earth. Yet, in some Christian circles, the Church is referred to as an army incessantly, while Church as family is rarely spoken of. That’s where we run into problems, with the extreme emphasis of the one over the other.

We hear much talk among Charismatics in particular about leaders being “generals,” and various levels of leaders having “rank” above others in the Body of Christ. I think we should be very careful to avoid that language and the attitude behind it. While God has put in place an orderly hierarchy for church leadership, using terms such as bishops and elders, He calls them shepherds of the flock, not military officers. Indeed, Jesus warned his disciples against lording it over others:

But Jesus called them to him, and said to them, “You know that those who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant, and whoever of you desires to be chief, shall be servant of all.”Mark 10:42-44

In Matthew 23:10, 11, He also said, “Neither be called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

Peter encouraged church leaders to be shepherds: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who also am an elder, … feed the flock of God which is among you … not as lords over God’s heritage, but as examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you will receive a crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4).

The functions of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher were not ever meant by the Lord to be positions used to levy power over others. They are gifts to the Church to help train us for ministry and to build up the Body of Christ. Ephesians 4:8-13 explains this, with verse 8 saying Jesus ascended and gave gifts to men,” and verse 11 saying “He gave some to be apostles and some to be prophets….”

When church leaders view themselves as army officers instead of fellow brothers and sisters in God’s family, they can easily become heavy-handed. Abuse takes place, and people get hurt. When kingdom purposes become more important than valuing the people who make up the kingdom, we’ve lost the vision God intended. God does not see the individuals in His army as expendable cannon fodder, and we shouldn’t see anyone that way either.

How can we change these attitudes, when they are so prevalent? Being aware of the truth is a big step, so that we no longer buy into man-made misconceptions. And, if we have the opportunity to lead others in any way, we don’t have to make the same mistakes which have been made before. We can bring change through how we treat others. It all comes back to the core description we started with: The Church is the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

I know some of you have been deeply hurt by leaders who were not gentle, who used, rather than cherished, the church flock. I do not write this to stir up bitterness, but in hopes of bringing some truth to bear so that adjustments can be made, even if it is only in the thinking of a few. May God give those of you who have been hurt grace to forgive, to receive healing, and to be instruments of change for the better in the Lord’s hands.

Ultimately, when we think of the Church as an army, if we keep it in the perspective of the Church being first and foremost God’s family, we’ll be all right. We will carry out our warrior calling in the way God intended, without harming our fellow soldiers in the process.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 3 — We Are One Body
Next: Part 5 — We Are a House of Prayer and Worship

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prophetic teaching

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 3) — We Are One Body

In our last post, we saw that God uses the model of family for His Church. He also likens His people to a human body. The two ideas are similar in how they cause us to relate to one another, if we heed them. Let’s take a look at the main passage which describes us as a body, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27:

For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are still one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body … and have all been made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.

If the foot shall say, “Because I am not the hand, I am not part of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not part of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?

But now God has set every one of the members in the body as it has pleased Him. And if they were all one member, where would be the body? But now are they many members, yet only one body.

And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, how much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. And those members of the body which we think less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; our less presentable parts are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts have no need. But God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to those parts which lacked.

This is so there would be no division in the body, but the members should have the same care one for another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

In a healthy family, every member is valued. We share each other’s joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats. When one hurts, the rest are empathetic to his or her pain. Little children are not disdained because they are small and weak; they are treated more tenderly. If a family member moves away, passes, or chooses to be estranged, he is sorely missed. A healthy family pulls together as a team.

In a healthy body, every part is also valued. If one part hurts, the whole body is affected. Parts which are naturally weaker and more susceptible to injury (such as the internal organs) are protected, not despised. If a part of the body has to be surgically removed, the rest of the body suffers great hardship. The left eye, ear, leg, or hand does not compete for dominance with the right eye, ear, leg, or hand. They work together.

So it is meant to be in the Church, the “body” of Christ. We are supposed to take special care of those who are weaker or less capable. Those who are sick should be tenderly nursed back to health. Those with less visible functions (like the internal organs of the human body) are vital to the life of the church as a whole, and should be valued accordingly. If someone leaves or passes away, it is like an amputation has taken place: the rest of the body tries to compensate for the loss, but it is not the same without the one who is gone.

In the church body, we should not be envious of one another, vying for dominance. Instead, we should pull together, recognizing the unique purpose God has for each of us. There is room for more than one “eye” or “ear” (the prophetic gifts of spiritually seeing and hearing). In fact, the sight range and depth perception of two eyes working together is better than what one eye can do by itself. In short, we need each other, each fulfilling our God-given purpose, in order for the church to be healthy and fully functional.

Appreciating each other and being willing to work together in the church body is not easy. It takes commitment to unconditional love, as we see laid out in 1 Corinthians 13. It takes dependence upon the Holy Spirit and a continual dying to our own selfish ambitions. Some members of the local body are not as easy to love as others, due to irritating personality quirks or character flaws. We may be tempted to wish they would go elsewhere. But if we can remember that they, too, have a unique, God-designed place to fill, and that the body will be missing a part if they are gone, it helps our own attitude. Many is the time I have asked God to show me the good He sees in a brother or sister, when I couldn’t find much to like. He has been faithful to that prayer, so that when I saw their value from the Lord’s perspective, I came to love them.

In our next post, we’ll look at the Church as an army. We’ll see how that can be good or bad, depending on whether we keep it within the biblical concept of family.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 2 — We Are Family
Part 4 — We Are an Army

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prophetic teaching

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 2) — We Are Family

familyIn our first post, we said the Church’s core job description is to be the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth. We also talked about the meaning of ekklesia, the Greek word which is translated “church.” It is an assembly of called-out ones.

The Church is referred to in the Bible using several different metaphors, but I believe the Scriptures reveal that the Church’s primary way to function is as a family. This is true of the universal church, but its best practical application is within the local congregation.

God’s people as family shows up already in Genesis, beginning with Adam and Eve. We see the idea woven throughout Noah’s, Abraham’s, and Israel’s story. It is a continuous, consistent thread flowing through centuries of Old Testament history.

Mankind was originally created in the image of God. “And God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness'” (Genesis 1:26). Family is God’s very nature, with two of the Persons of the Godhead being Father and Son. Since we have been made in His likeness, it should not surprise us that functioning as family is part of the Lord’s plan for His people.

In the New Testament, it becomes still clearer that God’s people are to follow the pattern of family. Believers in Jesus are referred to as the “sons of God” six times, including 1 John 3:1: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God….”

Romans 8:15-17 explains that we have been adopted by God the Father. As His adopted sons and daughters, we enjoy the same privileges and inheritance that Jesus does:

For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs: heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.

Throughout the New Testament epistles, members of the Church are referred to as “brethren,” “brothers,” and “sisters.” Those terms are used approximately 190 times in the apostles’ letters to the churches. Paul reminded the Corinthian church, which he had founded, that he was a father to them (1 Corinthians 4:15). He called Timothy and Titus his sons, although they were not biologically related (1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4). John repeatedly referred to the Church as “little children” in 1 John. Paul also instructed Timothy in how to treat fellow believers: “Do not rebuke an elder, but entreat him as a father and the younger men as brothers; the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2). The portrayal of church as family is clearly primary.

You may already be thinking, “My church experience is not very much like family. I wish it were.” Sadly, that is often the case. It is one of the things which needs to shift, in order for our congregations to be healthy.

Or, perhaps you are thinking, “My family life growing up was a total mess! Why would I want my church experience to be like that?” You wouldn’t. None of us would. But, because we are made in God’s image, each of us has some understanding of what family should be, even if we have not had the opportunity to enjoy it growing up. There is a knowing in your heart what family done right should look like, and you long for that. And that is what God wants His church family to demonstrate to each other and the world.

In a properly functioning family, children are not valued for what they do, but for who they are. All the sons and daughters have equal value in their parents’ eyes. Younger children do not have the same responsibilities and options as the older ones, not because they are less important than older siblings, but because they do not yet have the maturity to handle those responsibilities or choices well. In larger families, older children often help care for the little ones, even teaching them some of the basic skills they will need to possess.

In the same way, God values all His sons and daughters, not for our deeds, positions, or functions, but simply because each of us is His own dear child. In the Church, we must learn to see each other as God sees us. Yes, there will be mature members who pastor or mentor newer believers. Some will have more visible ministries than others. But their position is not a measure of their importance. Neither maturity nor individual function within the congregation has anything to do with value, so may God help us to stop acting as though they do!

In our coming posts, we will examine other biblical aspects of what the Church should look like. We’ll also see how each of them can, and should, fit with the family model.

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)
Part 3 — We Are One Body

________________________________________

prophetic teaching

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

What Should the Church Look Like? (Part 1)

church buildingMany articles are being written in our day which are highly critical of the modern Church. Often the criticism is well-founded, especially in our Western culture. Truly, we seem to have drifted off-course, so that many church gatherings look more like entertainment clubs or feel-good social gatherings than the Church we see in the New Testament.

There’s another side to this, though. Some critics are proposing an opposite extreme — a so-called New Testament Church which is narrowed in scope to their own particular vision or preferences.

The two extremes spark a question. What is the local church really supposed to look like? It’s not a question with easy answers. In this series, we will look at some of the main components of church life and purpose, as we see them in the Bible.

Let’s start with a core job description:

The Church is the expression of Jesus Christ upon the earth.

That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? — even overly simple. However, in the end, it all comes back to this. Romans 8:29 tells us that God predestinated us (both individually and corporately) to be “conformed to the image of His Son.” Whenever the Church deviates from being the same as Jesus Himself would be on earth, we have missed the mark. Likewise, when we accomplish looking like Him, we’ve done what we were intended to do.

In the New Testament, the word translated “church” is ekklesia (ecclesia in Latin). Literally, the word means “the called-out ones,” but the common understanding was that it was an “assembly” or “congregation.” (See end notes.) So, a reasonable, combined definition would be, “a called-out assembly.”

Truly that is what the Church is, on both the local and world-wide level: we are called out of the world system, set apart unto Jesus, and we are an assembly of believers. By definition, no one of us can be the church all by himself. We need each other. “Ekklesia” cannot be separated from the concept of community.

This is why Hebrews 10:24, 25 (NKJV) says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting [encouraging] one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Sunday morning services are one expression of how the local church can gather together, but by no means are they the complete picture, as we shall see as this series progresses. There are many facets of being the Church. If we tried to emphasize all of them in a single setting or time frame, we’d probably miss out on a lot.

In our next post, we will talk about the Church as family, which I believe is the starting point for restoring it back to what it is meant to be. If we get the family part right, our churches will become healthier, happier places, and everything else will flow quite naturally out of that.

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1. Ecclesia (Church). Simple English Wikipedia. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesia_(Church). Accessed 5-18-19.

2. Jackson, Wayne. “What Is the Meaning of Ekklesia?” Christian Courier. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1500-what-is-the-meaning-of-ekklesia. Accessed 5-18-19.

3. Strong, James and Thayer, Joseph. Concordance. My Sword Bible app. Accessed 5-20-19.

4. “What is the Definition of Ekklesia?” Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-ekklesia.html. Accessed 5-18-19.

Next (Part 2) — The Church is Family

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prophetic teaching

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic,
Audio teaching by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

nature of God, Christian discipleship

 

 

Before Whom We Stand, by Lee Ann Rubsam