important is the church?
By Andy Zoppelt
Jesus said, "On this rock I will build My church.."
Matt 16:18, NKJV
Jesus is both the sole foundation on which the
church is built and the sole builder of His church. In other words,
the church is built upon Jesus and built by Jesus.
"And He said to them, 'All too well you reject the
commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…. making
the word of God of no effect through your tradition which
you have handed down." Mark 7:9,13, NKJV
The Jews mixed the gradual input of the traditions
of men which benefited an ecclesiastical hierarchy system, overly
focusing on a building, and filling His people with religious ritual
while rejecting God's word and ultimately denying that word.
Our name-it and claim-it deception has risen to a
level of taking something belonging to Jesus and naming it and using
it for the ends of which God never intended it.
Jesus the chief cornerstone.
"having been built on the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief
cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined
together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are
being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Eph
"You also, as living stones, are being built
up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Behold, I
lay in Zion A chief cornerstone (Jesus), elect, precious, And
he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame." 1 Peter
Jesus the builder of His own house.
"Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this
One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He
who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house
is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses
indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of
those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son
over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence
and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." Heb 3:2-6
Without spending a lot of time in etymology, the
word "church" comes from the Greek kuriakon, which means,
"belonging to the Lord." In other words, a building, temple etc..
Hundreds of years later, some of the Greeks innocently used their
Greek word kuriakon referring to the "place" they met, the
building "belonging to the Lord." Since then and through Constantine,
the emphasis went from the body of Christ to a building. But the
ekklesia (called-out-ones) clearly points exclusively to the
"people" on which He will build His body, not His building.
The old saying goes, "If it walks like a duck and
quacks like a duck, it's a duck." If we go to church, build the
church, have building funds for the church and people ask you what
church you go to, all this indicates the building is the church.
How many countless times have we heard pastors, in
support of their tabernacle building fund, pleading to their
congregations to support the enlarging of the Lord's house or His
church? This subtle move through the centuries and through the
traditions of men to add a building into the issue has had devastating
consequences upon God's purpose for His people. In a sense, the
diversion directed to the building has robbed the people of God in
their significance as "being" His function body.
This whole idea is rooted in the bias and benefit
of a few men holding the unbiblical positions of clergy and at the
cost and sacrifice of the function of the many.
So the church is clearly not a building. Bible
translators purposely mistranslated many words in support of the
religious ecclesiastical hierarchy of the day. There simply wasn't
any grammatical reason and justification for ekklesia to be
translated as "church."
The true meaning for church
The meaning of the Greek word ekklesia, is
the "called-out-ones" and not a called-into-a-building-ones. Certainly
not a "pew-sitter-one." The saints were "called out" of the world and
called into Christ and His body. They shared a common bond in Jesus
and the Holy Spirit. Their faithfulness, holiness, and love did not go
unnoticed by those around them. Their ministry to one another and
their outreach to the world was not dependant on large sums of money
being sucked from all the tithes of the saints. Their ministry was
based on God's presence, power and love. It was not ministry dependent
on money, but God.
They were a family structure supporting one
another. They were recognized by the world and the world was
threatened by their love, unity and power. The saints of God would
rather die than be divided. They were a loving, forgiving and
supportive group. It was said of them, "Behold how they love one
another." They were a testimony to the love of the Father and His Son
working through the Holy Spirit. Their meetings left a person with a
sense of relevance and reality, not silence and lethargy.
Relationships must have function or it is not His
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to
everyone who is among you, not to think of himself
more highly than he ought to think (pastors do that to day,
they are thought more highly and ignore the rest of the body), but to
think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith
(not just the pastor). For as we have many
members in one body (where did denominations come from?), but
all the members do not have the same function (what is
it called when function is eliminated?), so we, being
many, are one body (denomination?) in Christ, and
individually members of one another (are we members of
one another in function and responsibility?). Having then gifts
(do we?) differing according to the grace that is given to us
(the church, the body of Christ), let us use them:
if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our
faith; or ministry, let us use it (ministry) in our
ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in
exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with
diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Rom 12:3-8
Everyone plays a key role in the function of body
of Christ. God's grace gives to every man a supernatural gift to build
up the body of Christ. Only when we focus on the church being "the
people," will we begin to realize the full potential of being members
of His body. It is demonstratably clear, our bodies must share both
function and purpose. And it is just as clear that we could not exist
if it didn't.
There can be no lethargy in a living body. It must
possess function and purpose for it to live. If just one member stops
functioning, the whole body suffers. We must see that our coming
together is for the building ourselves up in love. This is what Jesus
meant by building His church. He has called us and gifted us to do so.
You say, "I have no spiritual gift to share with others." It is
because we have been told to sit and listen, while one man does all
the ministering. atrophy sets in when the body members fail to move.
It often takes a long time to get the body to function again. The
church today is in a state of atrophy, our functioning ability has
been scandalously disregarded and silenced.
"But speaking the truth in love, (we) may grow up
into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From
whom the whole body fitly joined together and
compacted by that which every joint supplies,
according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,
makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself
in love." Eph 4:15-16
"And above all things have fervent love for
one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." Be
hospitable to one another without grumbling. As
each one has received a gift, minister it to one
another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.
If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability
which God supplies, that in all things God may be
glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and
the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:7-11
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same
Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And
there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works
all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each
one for the profit of all: for to one is given
the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of
knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same
Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another
the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of
spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the
interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works
all these things, distributing to each one individually
as He wills." 1 Cor 12:4-11
If you ever wondered why sometimes you feel so
lonely in a crowded church building, the answer is in the above
passages. The church has reduced the average Christian to an
insignificant commodity. Whenever I see a pastor speaking in front of
an audience, I think of all the ministries being destroyed by reducing
the church to a stage recital. The five fold ministry isn't to
decimate ministry among the saints, it is to extend it and cause it to
grow. It should be, if done scripturally, causing a decrease of the
five fold ministry and an increase of the body. I am sickened when I
see people flocking to have their ears tickled by the
charismatic-Hollywood-style ministries while assuming a pew warming
I am eternally grateful the Lord stopped me and
showed me His body. I would be an institutional pastor if it wasn't
for His drastic matters. Since being free from the institutional
system, I find myself open to every word that comes from the mouth of
God and through His body. "And the Spirit and the bride
say, 'Come!'" (Rev 22:17)
My spirit is stirred to see His body arise from
those man-made tombs, to see His people rid themselves of those grave
clothes put on through the traditions of men's egos.
I want to see His church! I cry for it. I pray for
it. I am burdened for a living body. substitutes and compromising are
eating away the life of His body. I need the body, the brother's
fellowship, their revelation, and their ministries. The true joy of
the church is when we all participate.
Man's schooling prepares them to dominate by
professionalism; God's anointing frees the body to function and it
establishes His kingdom rule in the hearts of the saints. "Let God be
true but every man a liar." Rom 3:4, NKJV
Our meetings should be like a pinball machine,
lights going on everywhere. Life flowing from one vessel to another.
I remember such meetings during the middle sixties
and early seventies. we couldn't get together enough. The power, the
presence and the revelation filled those meetings. Jesus gave us a
taste of His glory back then, but we quickly sold out to the old wine
skins of institutionalism which quickly burst. We got cold and
competitive, sowing discord, betraying one another and dividing and
Jesus is praying we would have eyes to see and ears
to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, His body. He is
looking for new wine skins to fill them with His anointing. He is
calling us out and into Himself.
Praise God there is another wave coming… it is his
body, the glorious saints without wrinkle and spot.
"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In
my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it
shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall
recover … And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord
working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.
Amen." Mark 16:17-18, 20
"'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says
God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young
men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream
dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I
will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy."
Acts 2:17-18, NKJV
Traditionally, Christianity in America is
recognized as an individual matter with the saints having no
participation in the "church." It is therefore an independent
relationship and an independent decision on where or if
to "go" to church. It is clearly understood, where and if we decide to
attend church is "our" choice. It is the institutional concept of
being a part of the audience while listening to a teacher; rather
than, being a function member of the body and within the body of
Christ. But this "institutionalized" idea was not the understanding of
the New Testament believers. If we were brought up in the early
church, we would be well aware that being outside the body would mean
being outside of Christ. If you were not a part of the body, you were
not a Christian. Jesus calls no one out of the body, but out of the
world and into the body.
The scripture talks with this viewpoint or paradigm
"And let us consider one another in
order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the
assembling of ourselves together (ourselves is a plural
recognition of belonging to a specific group or family), as is the
manner of some, but exhorting one another (something we lack in
the institutional system), and so much the more as you see the Day
approaching." Heb 10:24-25
"Consider one another," "exhorting one another,"
clearly point to a committed, functioning relationship we have with a
specific group or family.
John puts it in stronger terms,
"But if we walk in the light as He is
in the light, we have fellowship with one another."
1 John 1:7
The purpose of walking in the light and sharing has
fundamental reasons: so we can "exhort one another daily,
while it is called 'Today,' (Why?) lest any of you be hardened through
the deceitfulness of sin. For we (together) have become
partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence
steadfast to the end." Heb 3:13-14
The manifested love for one another is a powerful
case for being a Christian. Without it, there is no evidence of true
Loving one another is impossible if we are
independent individuals. Jesus spoke nothing about
attending a church building, but a coming together to show forth His
love toward one another. Loving meant we meet together by the drawing
of the Holy Spirit. And when we come together, it is the presence of
the Holy Spirit that manifests Himself in the form of gifts. The
saints lived in the presence of God. they were continually filled with
Spirit of God, and when they came together, it was a spiritually
explosive… dynamite. The power changed all.
In the church today, we are not given the
opportunity to love one another. The most we experience is maybe the
permission from the pastor to "turn to your neighbor and tell him you
"If we love one another, God abides
in us, and His love has been perfected in us." 1 John
Can I ask a simple but direct question, "If we do
not love one another, will God abide in us?"
"We know that we have passed from death to life
(How?), because we love the brethren. He who does not
love his brother abides in death." 1 John 3:14
We see a "we" centered people and a "one another"
response mentioned all through scripture. relationships were not
independent relationships, but interdependent relationships. John
presents the point that something is wrong if we are not experiencing
this love for one another.
New wine in new wineskins.
"Can the friends of the bridegroom
mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come
when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they
will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment;
for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.
Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, (Why?) or else the
wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.
But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are
preserved." Matt 9:15-17
The new wine represents the Holy Spirit moving in
vessels. If the wineskin is old, it will break. If the wineskin is new
and flexible, it will expand with the new wine.
A true salvation relationship is an ever-deepening
experience with Jesus and one another. We should be in a
constant state of change and growth. As the new wine is being poured
in us, we are expanding to be more like Jesus. If we are old wine
skins, we probably lost the new wine years ago and are not aware of
Isn't it regrettable how little we experience love
for one another in the church today, and how little we know of what to
do in a meeting that is not organized to the very last detail. The
church is a place where God's gifts and power should be a common
The whole system of church that exists now is
foreign to the true biblical tradition. One wonders where to begin to
make changes. God is looking for new wine skins that will expand with
the new wine.
I realize most of those we call Christians today
are incapable of having committed relationships with one another.
Intimate relationships tend to bring to surface both the bad with the
good. Many things which were hidden and below the surface are given
the opportunity to come to light. Everything that is spiritual must
pass through the fire. If you can't stand the heat, stay in the safety
of the institutional church. it is well organized and programmed to
prevent interactions and the surfacing of personal flaws.
The carnal nature works well in singing and
listening to teaching to titillate and stimulate the itching ear.
Large meetings provide the distance from one another, so that we can
focus on "studying" the scriptures rather than being affected by them.
Over a number of years, even those on fire become shallow and mellow.
Even though "how" we do church may be important, it
is "being" church that God is looking for.
In the church that meets in our home, we are
learning to listen to one another and respect one another. We are
learning to move in the Spirit and hear His voice. There is much talk
on the presence of God and seeing Jesus in our trials in our meetings.
We try to stay focused on the simplicity of Jesus and loving Him.
Kathryn Kuhlman often said, "When the church came
in, it came in with great glory, and when it goes out, it will go out
with great glory. Nothing, no nothing, He starts will end in defeat."
I am absolutely convinced that in the last move,
God is not going to pour out His Spirit on a divided, man-centered,
man-programmed, man-named denominational wineskin. The institutional
system is corrupted at its very root. In the past when God poured out
His Spirit in the denominational churches, it burst the wineskin and
it became another method to cause "their" church to grow. Years later,
when we go back to visit these churches birthed by the one-time
revivals, we see nothing but traditional institutionalism. Many I know
today who were once on fire for God, look like the old stale
denominations of yesterday.
The seeds of men's traditionalism:
"'Shall I not punish these people?' declares the
LORD, 'On a nation such as this Shall I not avenge Myself?' An
appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land: The prophets
prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And
My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?"
Jer 5:29-31 NASU
"My people love it so!" God will always let us have
the religion our heart desires.
Being ruled by men and the acceptance of the "lie"
is the root of man's traditionalism. Instead of our willingness to
each accept our responsibility before Him and to one another, we
transfer the responsibility to another person…. the pastor, priest,
elder, etc.. Misleading traditions begins when we seek "someone" to
represent us. These kinds of traditions can only succeed if there are
the people willing to support and accept it. Our passion to have a
physical representative, someone we can see and hear, someone who will
confirm our beliefs, is manifested in the institutionalism of the
church. We seek someone who will salve our conscience and protect us
from the true force of the word. We want someone to "prophesy to us
smooth things, prophesy deceits." Isa 30:10
We want someone of great stature to point and
identify with. We want a person with special abilities and giftings to
feed that ever itching desire to ever learn. If we can't be
"fed" in one church, we will leave and find someone to satisfy that
itch deep in our ear.
The bible has many examples of such people:
when God spoke to the children of Israel in the
wilderness, they cried out for Moses to speak to them instead of God.
"Then they said to Moses, 'You speak with us, and
we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'" Ex
Israel during the time of Samuel the priest and
prophet, also had a heart for a man to represent them: "Nevertheless
the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, No, but
we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the
nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us
and fight our battles" 1 Sam 8:19-20
"But you have today rejected your God, who
Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and
you have said to Him, 'No, set a king over us!'" 1 Sam
So, who therefore, will God respond with truth?
"But on this one will I look: On him who is poor
and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word."
Isa 66:2, NKJV
"My soul yearns for you in the night; in the
morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon
the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Though
grace is shown to the wicked, they do not
learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they
go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the LORD."
Isa 26:9-10 NIV
He truly has become my shepherd, I shall not want
any other. He Himself has led me beside the still and calm waters. He
continues each day to restore my soul while leading me in the paths of
righteousness for His name's sake. Yes, though I walk through
the valley and the shadow of death falls upon me, I will fear no evil;
Why you say? I will tell you why: because I know He is
with me. His rod and His staff, they continue to comfort and direct
me. He has prepared a table to provide for me right in the center of
my enemies attack. He has anointed my head and thoughts with oil; My
cup and spirit runs over. Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the
house of the LORD Forever…. I now understand!
My psalm 23
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