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Exciting news for “Dones” (people who are done with church as usual) — There is an amazing way to meet with Jesus that is filled with excitement and power!

 

Have you ever wanted something more from your faith? More than religion? More than church? One lost and forgotten biblical word, “ekklesia,” holds the key to a more vibrant and life-changing Christianity. –Modern English language Bibles quote Jesus as saying, “I will build My church.” However, the earliest Bibles have Jesus saying, “I will build my ekklesia.” For hundreds of years, this Bible word-switch has misdirected the way the body of Christ meets for worship.

 

Chapter 1: The Big
Secret In English Bibles (Copyright Steve Simms 2015)

 

A young man walked into
an informal meeting of about 60 people in progress in the lobby of a dorm on a
college campus – some people were in chairs and some sitting on the floor. As
he entered the crowded room, he heard a guy telling the group how Jesus Christ
had changed his life. Then another guy stood up and began to tell how Jesus
changed his life as well.

 

The young man was very
familiar with church, but this was something different. He could see that the
people informally sharing had a fire burning in their hearts. Someone stood up
and suggested that everybody go outside behind the dorm and hold hands in a
prayer circle.

 

The young man was swept
along in the crowd and soon found himself under the stars holding hands in a
spontaneous circle of college students. Then someone began to talk to God, and
another, and another. The young man had never heard people talk to God like
they did – humbly, intimately, passionately, powerfully.

 

Suddenly, this young man
who had never prayed aloud in front of people before, found himself saying
these words. “I came here tonight because I didn’t have anything else to do.
Thank You, Lord, for showing me that You are real. And thank You for leading me
here tonight.

 

That young man was me.
And that was my first time to experience a group that went beyond church. That
was 45 years ago and I’ve burned with passion for God ever since that moment.
That’s the power of ekklesia!

 

Jesus said: “On this
rock I will build my ekklesia and the
gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” –Matthew 16:18.

 

After finishing what I
thought was the final copy of this book, I picked up a new book, Prepare!, by Don Finto, a well-known
Nashville “pastor of pastors,” that someone had given me a few weeks before and
received an amazing confirmation of what is written on these pages. In Don’s
book I read: “Church is an
unfortunate mistranslation of the Greek word ekklesia—literally meaning called
out
. The Greek word carries no connotation of a building, but of a people.”

 

Now, you may not have
heard about ekklesia. Why? Because,
there has been a secret word-switch in almost all English language Bibles.

 

“The
difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference
between lightning and a lightning bug.” –Mark Twain

Lightening or lightning bug? Ekklesia or church? When the
Bible was translated into English the lightning bug word church was used to replace God’s lightning word ekklesia. Jesus
said: “I will build my ekklesia,” (Ekklesia was the city council of
ancient Greek city/states.)

Ekklesia
and church do not mean
the same thing (no more than lightning and lightning bug do). Therefore church
is an imposter for ekklesia. (In writing this I first typed imposture instead of imposter and accidently created my own
word-switch.)

Switching words out like Mark Twain, the English Bible
translators, and I did is called a malapropism. It is a big deal because it can
drastically change the meaning of what you are writing or saying. Word choice
is very important. Here are few more examples of malaproprisms:

“The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here
to preserve disorder (instead of prevent).” -Richard Daley, a mayor of
Chicago

“Listen to the blabbing brook (instead of babbling).”
–Norm Crosby

“This is unparalyzed in the state’s history (instead of
unparalled).” –Gib  Lewis, a Texas
Speaker of the House”

“Texas has a lot of electrical votes (instead of electoral).”
–Yogi Berra

“We need an energy bill that encourages consumption
(instead of conservation).” –George W. Bush

“On this rock I will build my church (instead of
ekklesia).” –English Bible translators quoting Jesus Christ

Word-switches can be funny however this last one has had major
consequences in how Christ-followers see worship and the body of Christ. We’ve
based our worship gatherings on the wrong word and therefore we have gotten greatly
different results than the First Century ekklesia did.

Ekklesia is
life-changing. It is exciting. It is powerful. It is

revolutionary. It is therapeutic. It is addictive. It’s amazing!

 

A large part of the New Testament is focused on planting,
growing, and maturing ekklesias, but
many people have never even heard the word and many more don’t know what it
means. Do you?

 

Unfortunately, this
foundational word of the Greek New Testament was completely left out when the
Bible was translated into the English language. In the
Greek alphabet the word ekklesia is written like this:

ἐκκλησία.

It
can also be spelled ecclesia in English. The English words ecclesiology
(the study of church), ecclesiastical (of or pertaining to church), and ecclesiologist
(someone very knowledgeable in ecclesiology or someone who studies church
architecture) are all derived from the lost word of the Bible – ekklesia.
However, all there of those English words are built on the premise that ekklesia
means church, which, as we shall soon see, it does not.

Therefore,
I’ve redefined those three English words as ecclesiology (the study of ekklesia),
ecclesiastical (of or pertaining to ekklesia), and ecclesiologist
(someone who passionately seeks to learn about, experience, develop, and
multiply ekklesia in practical ways in the contemporary world.) I am an ardent
ecclesiologist and I hope you will become one as well.

So how was the word ekklesia lost to English speakers? And
what does it mean?

There are
two ways to move a word from one language to another: 1) Translation — to take
a word in one language and express its meaning in another language; and 2)
Transliteration — to spell a word written in one language’s alphabet in the
alphabet of another language.

However, instead of either translating or transliterating the
word ekklesia into
the English language Bible, most translators completely left it out and swapped
it with another word that has a different meaning entirely — the word church.   Here’s
how that happened.  (However, Spanish language Bibles did transliterate
the word ekklesia into Spanish as iglesia. And, as we just saw,
English language theologians have transliterated it for non-biblical use as ecckesiology
and ecclesiastical.)

 

In 1525, one of the first people to translate the Bible into
English, William Tyndale, translated the word ekklesia as congregation. However, in 1611 the translators of
the King James Version of the Bible chose to completely drop the Greek meaning
of ekklesia and
to replace it with the English word church.
Since then, almost all English translations have followed the King James
example and switched out the meaning of the word ekklesia with the English word church.

 

Does this matter? Does this really mean anything? Yes indeed! It
means that in the main language of the world, the Bible has a mistranslation of
the word ekklesia which is what the writers of the New Testament called the
body of Christ.

 

Let’s look briefly at the meanings. The English word church comes from the
Middle English chirche from
the Old English cirice, both of which mean a religious
building or religious place or “the Lord’s house” and often referred to pagan
worship circles. Church has also come to mean “a religious institution” or
“a weekly meeting of such an organization.”

 

However, the Greek word ekklesia
has a totally different meaning.
Ekklesia 
literally means “the called out ones” – people who
have been invited to gather together. It also was the name of the governing
body of independent Greek city-states. These ancient city councils were participatory,
interactive assemblies that were open to all of a city’s male citizens and were
called out (summoned, convened, or invited) to conduct city business.  Thus ekklesia
could be translated as city council.

 

City ekklesias actually
consisted of all of the adult, male citizens in a particular city-state
who showed up for their meeting. They met about 40 times per year to discuss
issues and to directly make policy decisions by each person having one vote.
Everyone was considered an equal in the ekklesia and any citizen present in the
assembly could participate and share his ideas, opinions, and concerns.  (However, Jesus’ ekklesia, unlike the Greek
ones, is made up of all His followers, both male and female.)

 

In his letter to the believers in the former
city-state of Corinth, Greece (then under Roman rule), Paul describes the early
Christian ekklesia like this:  “When you come together, each of you has a
hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.”
(1 Corinthians 14:26).  These words couldn’t help but cause the Christians
in Corinth to think about the history of their city’s ekklesia and about
how they, as believers, should also meet in an open, equal, and participatory style.

 

Bible scholar, Adolf Deissmann puts it this way:
“Throughout the Greek world and right down to NT times, ekklesia was the
designation of the regular assembly of the whole body of citizens in a free
city-state, ‘called out’ by the herald for the discussion and decision of
public business.”

 

R.L. Child says: “In secular Hellenistic usage in early times
an ekklesia was an ad hoc assembly of citizens summoned by a herald — in
short, a kind of public meeting. The religious use of the term derives from the
Septuagint (the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek) where,
from Deuteronomy onwards, it is invariably used to translate the Hebrew quahal, meaning “the assembly of
the congregation of Israel.” 

Taking all these meanings of ekklesia into consideration, the
New Testament definition of ekklesia would be “an open, participatory,
interactive assembly of equal people called out of self-focus and invited to
meet together in the pursuit of God’s government”.  Since there is no
single English word that conveys the Greek concept of ekklesia (assembly or gathering, or congregation come close but
they leave out the political, the participatory, and the interactive nature of ekklesia), perhaps we should do what the
Spanish Bible translators did and restore the lost word by incorporating it
into English in its transliterated form — ekklesia.

 

An ekklesia is a meeting where (2 or more)
everyday people are invited to come together to each one listen to the living,
resurrected Jesus Christ and then to speak and/or do what Jesus tells him to,
resulting in a divinely orchestrated time in Christ’s presence. Ekklesias are
open and unprogrammed. They let go of human control and allow Jesus space and
freedom to work. Ekklesias expect and rely on the direct intervention and
leading of the living Jesus as a present reality.

 

So which ecclesiastical structure is from God?
The
thousands of denominations and independent churches around the
world all claim that their organizational structure is from God.  (At
least, I’ve never heard of a church saying:  “Our church’s organizational
chart is man-made.”)

Here are a few of the organizational structures that various
churches claim are from God: 

Apostolic Succession:  This system puts authority in the
hands of the apostles and those ordained to be their spiritual
descendants.  This authority is supposed to have been passed down from
person to person by the laying on of hands.  Many Christian denominations
claim a continuous line of authority going back to the first apostles.

CEO Pastor/Bishop:  In this system, one man is the head of
the church, just like a CEO is the head of a corporation. In this system, Jesus
becomes the figurehead of the church, not the actual one.

Congregational:  This type of church organization centers
its authority in the voice of the members.  Major decisions are usually
made by vote and majority rule.

Presbyterian:  In this style of church structure various
congregations (scattered here and there) are all a part of the same
organization.  Decisions are made by elected representatives (presbyters)
from the various congregations who meet as a presbytery and make decisions by
voting.

Each of these church organizational styles can find many Bible
verses to support their structure.  So which one is the Biblical one?

From my reading of the New Testament, I believe that the structure
in the body (the ekklesia) is supposed to be spiritual and not organizational.
All the parts of the human body function together because they are directly
connected to the head (by nerves), not because they have a hierarchy or organizational
chart. So in the ekklesia, we are all directly connected to the Head, Jesus
Christ. He is the one who keeps us together, animates us as His body, and
personally directs meetings of the ecclesia.

The ekklesia is not built on positional authority (coming from
titles or positions), like a human organization, but on spiritual authority
coming from the life of God actively working in and flowing through the various
members of the body.

Jesus told His disciples that “the Gentiles lord it over”
(Matthew 20:25) each other, meaning that they exercise positional
authority.  Then He told His disciples that this is not how it is to be
among them (something they soon began to ignore).

Allowing the Holy Spirit to be the Person in authority in a
worship gathering is a rarity.  However, if you ever see a group that sets
aside organizational structure and functions as an ekklesia, you will be
amazed.  The glory of God is present.

Of course, no group is ever 100% free of human direction and
control. However that shouldn’t cause us to give up on the biblical concept of
ekklesia. 

An ekklesia
is:


* A Spirit-prompted group;
* A Christ-controlled community;
* A God-led get-together;
* A meet-with-Jesus meeting;
* A sharing-in-the-Spirit assembly;
* An audience with the King;
* A Jesus encounter group;
* A Holy Spirit huddle;

* A God-gathering;

* People gathered to be governed by God;

* Christ’s governing assembly;

* A rendezvous with God;
* A session with the living Savior;
* A hands-on worship workshop;

* An army under God’s direct command;
* Hanging out with Jesus and some of His
friends;

* A Divine engagement;
* A spiritual support group;

* Heaven’s city council;
* A meetup with the Son!

 

An ekklesia acrostic (a-cross-tic) for the ages . . .

E — Experiencing the

K — King of

K — Kings

L — Leading

E — Everyone by His

S — Spirit

I — In an

A — Assembly of Christ-followers.

Let’s look at Matthew 16:18 again. I found this rendition of the
verse in an article by Steve Bydeley that takes into account the broad meaning
of ekklesia: “I will edify the people
I’ve assembled to govern; and the gates of the realm of the evil spirits will not
be strong enough to keep them confined.”

Hugo McCord, who published The
Everlasting Gospel
translation in 2010
explained in the appendix to his translation why he did not use the word
church to translate ekklesia
:

“To make this translation as accurate as possible, the word church is eliminated. The word church historically refers to a physical
building, a meeting house, which the Lord’s people in the First Century did not
build, and for which there is no New Testament word.
William Tyndale knew that the word church
is an inaccurate translation of the New Testament
word ekklesia, which simply means called out. So Tyndale, in the first
English translation of the New Testament from Greek in 1525, eliminated church in favor of congregation. King James I, having a vested interest in the word church, since he was the head of the
Church of England, did not like the change, and so he ordered the fifty-four
translators of the King James version to use the word church.

Daniel Gruber in the book, The
Separation of Church & Faith
, wrote: “There is no church in the biblical text. The Church is not the biblical ekklesia.
Every time you see the word church in
a Bible, you are seeing a place where the translators did not translate the
text, but distorted it instead, for the sake of tradition.”

Dean Briggs, in his book Ekklesia
Rising,
says: “
Words
create culture. By adopting the word church
with its totally different etymology, instead of the more contextually accurate
word of Christ, ekklesia, the
movement of God has been in a rut for 2,000 years. Don’t believe me? Pick up
any dictionary. Look up church. See
if it lists ekklesia as the Greek
root. Hint: it won’t.”

Briggs
also says: “On the one hand, if all we want is church, we’ve got it. But if Jesus wants an ekklesia, we don’t.” If you want ekklesia, keep reading!

 
 
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