The yeast of God's kingdom in every social fiber of society

The true influence and meaning of the Ekklesia

Nowadays, when we hear the word ‘church’, we usually picture a solemn building with a cross on top, pulpits, clergy, choirs, worship leaders and members.
However, during the days when Jesus walked this earth, ‘Ekklesia’ – the Greek word translated into English as ‘church’ – was not religious in nature or connotation at all. In fact, by the time Jesus first uttered it in the Gospel of Matthew (16:18), it had been in use for centuries in both the Greek and Roman empires to refer to a secular institution operating in the marketplace in a governmental capacity.
When Jesus chose it to introduce His redemptive agency, no one among His disciples would have conceived it as redeemable since the existing Ekklesia embodied a foreign stronghold. So, how did this secular institution evolve into the religious one we are so familiar with today?
The church of the New Testament: a different kind of church
The New Testament examples of church are vastly different form the contemporary notion that it is a place where members go – usually once a week. Back then, church always referred to people, never buildings, who operated 24/7 “from house to house…” all over town as a transforming organism, not as a static institution. And its objective was the transformation of people and of society, rather than a transfer station for saved souls bound for heaven.
 

Culture of the kingdom

Its capacity for growth was so dynamic that two years after Paul planted the Ekklesia in Ephesus, “everybody who lived in (the Roman province of) Asia had heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10), no small accomplishment since the population of that region exceeded a million people. And not long afterward, Paul was able to state with certitude that he ‘had filled with the gospel every place from Jerusalem to Illyricum’, a distance of 1,400 miles and a surface area of around 300,000 square miles.
What makes this stunningly remarkable is that all of this was accomplished without military or governmental support. Jesus’ Ekklesia was a massive people movement that swept region after region victoriously as the counterculture to the existing status quo.
The observations beg additional questions: where is the influence of the Church today in the midst of the social, economic, political and moral upheaval that is wreaking havoc in the world? And how is it doing relative to the victorious climax described in Revelation 21:24ff, where we see a procession of saved nations – not just people?
 

Secular concept

Jesus intention all along was to co-opt and impregnate an existing secular concept with His Kingdom version.
He choose a term that in the Roman Empire in general, and also in subjugated Israel, described a secular governmental institution. His ultimate objective was not to reproduce or expand religious institutions, but to see nations disciple by inserting the yeast of His Kingdom into their social fiber through His Ekklesia.
Jesus did not confine the gathering of His followers to buildings or subject them to a rigid schedule of centralized meetings, but instead it was people who constituted His Ekklesia (wherever and whenever as few as two or three gathered with His manifest presence in their midst).
 

Transformation

In the same manner that Rome made its presence, power and culture felt in the far reaches of its Empire, Jesus designed His Ekklesia to also make its presence and power known, but with a revolutionary caveat that gave it the upper hand: it would have authority to legislate in both the visible, as well as in the invisible realms, for the Gates of Hades not to prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
We are also called to make the presence of God known in our sphere of influence. At those places you have authority to represent Jesus. Just like the first Christians in the book of Acts, who did not only survive, but changed the hostile social and political climate. What a joy it would be when we would see our nation return to their Christian roots. Where all the work we do is to honor God and His glory is seen in society.
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