of the Word "church"
By Andy Zoppelt
Part 3: The
Kingdom and the Gifts
The use of our word church as a building has totally affected how we view building. The early Christians focused on their relationships with one another and the building of their lives together in a common unity. Their focus was not on an audiences-driven meeting facilitated by a building with its staff. Such impersonal meetings are causing many who are seeking help to fall through the cracks and be devoured by the enemy.
“So they (the sheep) were scattered because there was no shepherd; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them." Ezek 34:5-6, NKJV
The early believers met in homes. Leadership led by example and personally fed the sheep as a father feeds his own children. The early believers functioned like the cells in a body or as members in a family.
“From whom [Jesus] the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies [not just one person], according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Eph 4:16
In the assembly of believers, like a family, if the son was missing, the father would immediately go out to look for him. There was responsibility, accountability and a cohesion within their relationships that was tighter than a family. They had the power of the Holy Spirit knitting them together in love and faith. They had no need for a building or teaching on the level that we see today.
The Holy Spirit was present and worked with them. They had a supernatural foundation (Jesus) and a supernatural builder (Jesus and the Holy Spirit). The early believers came out of the kingdom of this world and became a part of the kingdom of God. They understood the kingdom concept taught by Jesus. They were Jews who understood a kingdom and a king. To the Jews, they were now a part of a new kingdom and Jesus was their king. Israel with its kings and high priest was a thing of the past. Their building was now made of living stones and Jesus was building them together. In scripture believers were likened to a body, a temple, a house, a bride, etc.. Jesus was the foundation of His building and He was the Head of His body and the Husband to His bride. The early believers had no clergy and laity. As believers they were called out (the meaning of ekklesia) of the world into the kingdom of God. They were the called out ones.
Gifts of the Spirit
The use of the word church as a building has changed the source of our meetings: form replaced the power of the Spirit.
When the early believers assembled together the Holy Spirit would manifest the gifts and virtues of the Spirit in each of the members to share with one another. They were built and knitted together on a sacrificial love for God and one another. They experienced love and unity. If we distort the building of the saints together, we jeopardize the life of the body of Christ and its function. To dismember and disjoint any body is death… the very thing we have done with His body and we are all guilty!
Once the reference to believers switched from the people being built together to a building of stone and wood… all meaningful function within the body was lost. We lost body ministry, unity, supportive relationships, fellowship and community. The funds that normally went to the poor and widows now went to the institutional structures and organization. This was a major shift (from people to building) and delivered a key blow to the function of the body of Christ, changing it to a teacher/audience structure. The intention of Christ building His believers in one body was thwarted by the traditions of men who translated our scriptures for their own benefit… and not Christ’s. Because of this switch, all ministry, as we understand it today, became skewed. When we look at what we have come to know as the five-fold ministry, we see offices, hierarchy, authority of men and fulltime ministry. We see audiences without personal care and without tight knit and supportive relationships. Such a switch of the ministries has divided us into a clergy and laity resulting in a passive and lethargic body. To even deepen this division, these ministries have further separated us into denominations, non-denominations, networks, etc.. Each of the five-fold ministries, developed believers around them instead of around Jesus… the very thing they were not supposed to do. Men became associated with “their” apostles, pastors, etc.. Most of those ministries became teaching ministries and the real function of unifying the body was gone.
Rather than having two or three gathered together in His name, we have multitudes gathering in a name totally foreign to the word of God: Presbyterian, Baptist, Calvary Temple, Don ministries, Joe’s Evangelistic Association, … the list goes into the thousands. This forming of congregations under other names has been one of the major disrespect for Jesus and His prayer for unity.
So today we have built ministry around men (pastors, popes, bishops, apostles, Dr’s. and you name it) who usurped the authority of Christ as Head and have built around denominational titles and names separating His body into corporations. There are no words too strong to demonstrate this deception and shift. Words that come to mind are: abomination, heresy, anathema, reprobate and blasphemy. You say, “Andy, those are strong words.” I don’t know of any way to explain the devastation and damage of taking away from Christ His body which started in unity. We are to gather around the name of Jesus, not the name of a building or rented store front or a pastor or apostle. We have literally robbed Christ of his rightful place and therefore His glory in His body has departed. Because of this we are not equipped to build a Glorious body without wrinkle and spot! We have replaced the ministry of the Holy Spirit with the works of men. We have replaced first love (a true love and obedience toward Jesus) with work.
I am convinced that leadership is so caught up in the paradigm of the American church structure; they refuse to look and question their own place and responsibility in the body of Christ. Historically, since the reformation, leaders have put the emphasis of what they have perceived as truth (theological) and have not been willing to deal with the issue of the body of Christ and its unity and function. Such an honest inquiry would be devastating to works of most leaders and “their” groups, but not to the true body belonging to the Lord. Such an inquiry reminds me of the farmer’s breakfast. The chicken has only to sacrifice an egg or two, but the pig must give up his life to supply the bacon. Theological differences are ok and we can pound the pulpits about being a bible believing church, but to remove a man from his position of being the minister over “his” congregation is costly. The truth is costly, who wants to buy it? “Buy the truth, and do not sell it .” Prov 23:23, NKJV
Such a move is forthcoming and many pastors are getting the message. What we are doing looks good and professional, but it is not God. Our approach is only further dividing the body and isolating the laity.
Part 4: The Way We Were
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