A scriptural definition of the congregation of believer's.
The first occurrence of the Greek word “ekklessia” (which has been translated “church” in the King James Version of the English Bible) is in Matthew 16:18. In the German Bible this word is translated “Gemeinde” (fellowship/brotherhood) not “Kirche” (Church). Ekklessia has the thought or definition of a gathering, an assemblage, and more specifically a group of called out (chosen) persons representing the populace to make decisions (governance). So why did Jesus use this word when he had a perfectly understood Greek word “sunagoge”? (From which we get our modern English word synagogue which is a close equivalent of the word church.)
In John 4:21 Jesus clearly taught that true worship of the Father was not dependent on a place. From this understanding among various believers, including the Amish and the River Brethren has come an unwillingness to erect buildings and rather to meet in the homes. In fact, the early Mennonite meeting places in America were not called churches but rather “meeting houses”. The focus of this writing is not a discussion of whether or not buildings or meeting houses are used, but rather a reflection on the true nature of the Body of Christ. It is not to be divided by denomination, and we (the believers in a given locale) are to assemble together often.
Once again noting the Congregational Order Points in the back of the “Schleitheim Articles”, Point 1 instructed them to gather 3-4 times a week in their homes. Point 2 admonished them to be in order and take turns sharing, much the same as 1 Corinthians 14:30-31 instructs us, “If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” In fact, the early Anabaptists had a name for this. They called it “sitzrecht” or sitter's right. They also understood that any gemeinshcaft (fellowship) they would have with each other resulted directly from their gemeinshcaft (fellowship) with Christ, thus keeping the reality of an individual vibrant relationship with Christ an integral building block of any assembly or gathering of the saints.
This fellowship results in local autonomous gatherings functioning directly under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is the direct, actual, functioning head of each assembly by His Spirit. Yet these assemblies are able to receive input and fellowship with any other believer or assembly of believers regardless of shape, size, nationality, culture, brand, flavor etc. This teaching that any brother is free to share as the Lord directs, elevates the value of each individual. Christianity, as opposed to Communism, Nazism, Islam or any other ideology, has resulted in the elevation of worth of the individual, his conscience, and his relationship with Christ. Because of this influence we have come to regard religious freedom as normal.
In his article “Altars, Pulpits, and Tables” Curt Wagoner of the German Baptists points out that one of the primary reasons we come together is to function (“around the table”) as believers. In the Altar Model, one comes to the priest, to the sacrament. Later the Reformers replaced this model with the Pulpit Model where the congregation gathers around the sermon. This was especially sharply in focus prior to the introduction of Sunday School. In the Table or Circle model we come together to function and to share Christ, and even visibly to share His broken body (communion). When this is reality, when brothers and sisters meet out of a close personal walk with Christ, it makes the man-made accountability structures of membership and rules look like just what they really are – a cheap counterfeit of the real thing. In such a circle there is no doubt who is “committed”. Sin becomes sinful and hiding things and hedging shows up quickly. This sort of relationship is spiritual and while providing a visible expression of Christ's Kingdom, far supersedes the organizational models many follow today. Because there is no
name, no brand, no membership etc. there is nothing to register with the government. All who are submitted to Christ are welcome and those who are not will be exposed.
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