Defining “Church” – As Jesus Did

January 18, 2014

Defining “Church” – As Jesus Did


Children’s Sermon:  Do your best impression of the following:

A fisherman, a teacher, a preacher, your mom doing laundry, your dad doing dishes, the church.

There is an old Sunday School poem and hand-play that you may or may not know.  “Here is the church . . . “  What is the most important part in that poem?

The people.  Maybe if we work together we could do a better job of doing an impression of the church.  (Arrange them in a row:  Someone who is sad, held up by someone who is tired, prayed for by someone who is addicted, encouraged by someone who has a past, prayed for by someone who is very ill.)  This is a picture of the church.  I pray that this is what we look like.  Let’s pray.


Intro: After Jesus asks the disciples who people are saying he is, Peter answers that He is the Christ and the following is Jesus’ reply to Peter.  READ Matthew 16:17-18 


We’ve discussed in the past that the church is not a building, but the people who gather there.  We’ve spoken about the concept that we don’t “go to church” but we are the church.  I’d like to spend the next few weeks unpacking what then it means to “be the church”.  What was Jesus’ intention when he spoke it into being through Peter?  What was the understanding of “church” when Christianity was new?  What was the church like during Christendom?  Who does the church need to be in the era in time we find ourselves now – post-Christendom?


We will look at those first two views today and save the others for later.


This past Tuesday night I spoke to the United Church of Cohoes about becoming an ECO congregation.  Thank you for your prayers.  One question that was asked was “What will be different?” and I answered them as I answered that question here, “Nothing and everything.” 


I answer that way because, when you come to worship – which is sometimes the only aspect of “church” most folks see – nothing will look different.  We are the same people, loving Jesus and one another.  Worship does not dramatically change.  The change is more in attitude and understanding.  Our focus is retrained. We are called to rethink what it means to be the church.  And then we are held accountable to put that thinking into action.  


In my own life, I find that information, understanding why something is or needs to be a certain way, motivates me to make changes and grow.  So as we define what church is, my hope is that the information will help motivate us to grow into who Christ has called us to be.


When Jesus said “church”

A little Greek for you this morning.  The word that Jesus used in this conversation with Peter was ekklēsía.  This is a combination of two words: 1) ek, "out from and to", 2) kaléō, "to call".  So when spoken, it means: people called out from the world and to God[1]  When Jesus said “church” he meant a people called out from the world and set apart for God.  From this word comes “ecclesiastical”.


There is also another Greek word for church – kyriakos which means “belonging to the Lord” and it is from kyriakos that we get the English word for church.  With either word we understand that the church is a people whose identity is with God rather than the world.


Okay Church!  Here is our first checkpoint.  You are the church.  You are called out from the world and to God.  In your real, every day life, where do you find your identity and worth?  Is it from the things you “do” in the world or is it from who you are in Christ?  Is your identity grounded in your job title, your worth as a parent/grandparent, or is your identity grounded in this truth – that as a Christian, called to new life in Jesus Christ, you belong to God and are his dearly beloved child with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities thereto? 


AND what does it mean that you are not called to be the church on your own but with a host of other Christians.  How does that shape our understanding of our own personal faith as well as our understanding of what the church is?


The word ekklēsía is attributed to Jesus only one other time in the gospels and again it is in Matthew (18:17) and is in regard to church discipline – that if a person is confronted with their sin and called to repentance privately and that discipline is ignored, the matter is to be brought to the whole church.  The goal is to help that sinner turn around.  If they refuse to change then they are to be treated as one who doesn’t follow Christ.  Those are Jesus’ words – he doesn’t sell an accept everything kind of love in or out of the body of believers.


We could spend a whole series of sermons on this topic of church discipline.  It is one of the weakest pieces of obedience to Christ in the American mainline churches today.  We are soft on sin because we don’t want to offend anyone.  Let me ask you this.  If a child consistently is rude to their teachers what happens?  Why do they bother dealing with the problem?  Because if they don’t deal with it now, it will become a bigger problem and that child will not succeed in school nor will the teachers succeed in teaching.  It has to be dealt with.  It is the same among the people of God.  If a brother or sister is stuck in sin, they need to be confronted on it so that they have the opportunity to change their way.


So as a church we have to decide if we are going to ignore those who are struggling in their faith or if we are going to come alongside them and instruct them in the way they are to go.  Not because we have it altogether but because someone is holding us up also.  The church should look like a bunch of people leaning on each other’s shoulders, as we saw in the Children’s Sermon. 

As the ekklesia – those called out from the world and to God, we have a responsibility to live out that identity.  What one thing needs to change in you life for that to happen?  Is it a habit, and attitude, a worldview?  There’s not one of us here who doesn’t need to grow.  There’s not one of us here who can do it all on our own.  So this is what I’d like to do.  Could you, would you, reach out to the person you are sitting next to or behind and place your hand on their shoulder and pray this prayer with me:  Lord God – you have called us as your own – I pray your blessing on this fellow disciple – fill them with your grace and mercy – encourage them to walk in your way – amen. 


This is what the church Jesus established is supposed to look like.  Is it who you are ready to become?


Concl.  Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the memorial service for Rocky Williams.  We heard some great stories.  They weren’t about a good man.  They were about a disciple of Jesus Christ who gave everything he had to be the church that Jesus called into being.  He was broken and mended.  He struggled and recovered.  He had addictions that he was set free of.  He was open and invited others to know his brokenness so that they wouldn’t be afraid to deal with their own broken places.  He walked alongside those who needed his friendship and encouragement.  Rocky was the church and his prayer was that we would all be the church and spread the gospel.  He left a legacy of people who were changed by the love and power of Jesus Christ.  The last song we sang together was “Pass It On” which kind of sums up how to live out the Great Commission that Jesus called us to.  Let’s sing it again now.  Dan and Nic have lent me Rocky’s guitar to lead this song.  It’ on page 309 of your hymnal.


Let us pray.







[1] 1577 ekklēsía(from 1537 /ek, "out from and to" and 2564 /kaléō, "to call") – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

[The English word "church" comes from the Greek word kyriakos, "belonging to the Lord" (kyrios). 1577 /ekklēsía ("church") is the root of the terms "ecclesiology" and "ecclesiastical."][1]  copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.