If you were to ask the average person walking down the street, “What do you think a church is?” Most would allude to a building possibly with stained glass windows or steeple on it where religious people gather on Sunday. Others may even say, “It’s the body of believers in Jesus Christ.” There is a sense both of these answers are correct but what specifically does the term “Church” mean in the Bible? The word “Church” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “Ekklesia” which is defined as “The Called out ones.”
Way back in Deuteronomy 4:20 we read, “The Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.” So the idea of being “called out ones” didn’t originate with the New Testament rather it is a continuation. You see since the fall of man God has been seeking for those that would simply hear his voice and obey him.
In Genesis 12:1 we see where God called Abraham out and said, “Now the Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you…” The letter to the Hebrews reminds us of this in 11:8 “And by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
Even when Jesus walked with his disciples his plan seemed to be for them to go out. He told them in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” He sent them out with the instructions “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” He even told them He was going away but it was best for them. He said, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” So it seems God’s plan all along is for his people to be a people on the move.
While the world, and some Christians, may think the “Church” is a building Christians go to on a Sunday morning God sees the Church as a body of His people called out for His purposes. In the letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service…” What exactly is the goal of this equipping then? I believe it is to prepare the “Church, or body of Christ” to go. You see once we come to maturity in Christ as individuals and as a body we will no longer need a man between us and God. Once we have been taught, or equipped, we will find our place in the body and move into our role of one of the “Called Out Ones.” It is true not all are meant to be “Goers” some are stayers in order to prepare the goers but that will be made clear as our understanding is broadened.
In Acts 13:2-3 we read where the church was gathered and “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit called out Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for His particular work for them. Do you think the rest of the saints there were jealous or felt left out because they didn’t get to go? Of course I can’t answer that because it wasn’t specifically addressed in the scriptures but it seems likely there may have been some who felt passed up but what if God simply didn’t think they were ready yet. What if they still had a bit of maturing to do? Either way when it comes right down to it all that call themselves Christians have been called out of the world.
1 Peter 2:9 & 10 tells us “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a Holy Nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” So you see whether we stay in a traditional church setting or we are called to go out our job is to declare the excellencies of Him who has called us.