By Floyd McClung
Floyd is the international director of All Nations and currently lives in South Africa.
As we look to the twenty-first century, we see a new generation of message bearers being sent into the fields. To equip this new generation we need to have a new definition of church for the new believers that will be added to the Kingdom.
Though this is a different way of thinking about church the concept is quite old and very biblical. In order to truly see the church expand to its God-given potential, the definition, concept, and practice must change.
What is the Church Supposed to Look Like?
The ecclesia of God is an army, breathed on by the Spirit of God. When God’s Spirit breathes, things begin to happen. The dry bones start to get up and dance. We know it is the ecclesia we read about in Acts because of how it dances and battles and lives life.
Ecclesia is committed community. It is doing life together with others. It is about shared meals together, telling friends and neighbors about Jesus together, hanging out together, laughing and crying together, and growing together through transparency with others committed to love and follow Jesus.
Ecclesia is family. We are the family of God on earth, the overflow of the family of God in heaven. The trinity is family. The church is family: the Father sent the Son and the Spirit to create on earth what they enjoyed in heaven.
As the family of God, we are named after the Father, “from whom every family in heaven and earth is named.” Family may not be a positive word for those who had negative experiences growing up. We have the opportunity to change the word and make it positive.
We get to enjoy family at its best: we belong, we are unconditionally accepted, we know with certainty we are loved, we receive a new identity, and we learn to receive loving discipline and correction. Jesus did not die for the idea of world evangelization, He died for people, He died to create a family of sons and daughters.
Ecclesia is an army. It’s an army of dry bones come to life. God’s Spirit can turn a disconnected, dead and lifeless bunch of bones into a cohesive army, marching in unison. Armies are for war. God’s army is at war. But our fight is not against people.
The “bad guys” we war against are not terrorists, or abortionists, or liberal politicians or seminary theologians who deny the virgin birth of Christ. Our war is not a culture war with the right or the left, nor is it a war against fundamentalists or racists.
God’s army is an army of love, empowered to fight against poverty, injustice, corruption and greed. God’s army is held together with kindness, not hate. The focus of our battle is against spiritual forces of evil, sometimes embodied in evil people, but they must never become our focus lest we become like the ones we resent.
I had a good experience of church in Afghanistan. I didn’t go there to find church, but you could say it found me. We rented a big house in Kabul and opened our home to anyone in need. We were there to help foreigners, people who got sick, who lost their passports, or worse, got strung out on drugs. W
e ran a free clinic and teahouse downtown, and took in the homeless and strung out “world travelers” as they were called. Kabul, Afghanistan was not a good place to get sick. You could catch more diseases in the local hospital than you got rid of.
Soon, we had twenty to thirty people living with us at a time. We rented more houses to take everyone in. Hundreds of foreigners got to know Jesus over the few years we lived in Afghanistan.
We shared our meals together, played soccer and developed a routine of prayer and Bible study before we did work projects or visited people in the prisons and hospitals. We didn’t ask people to believe what we believed to live with us, but we did ask them to follow our routines of prayer, work and common meals.
We put a lot of effort into a caring, personal mealtime. We took turns serving each other so the meals were not too chaotic. It was not unusual to have twenty or thirty guests eating with us. At the end of the meal we read a few verses from the Gospels and discussed the words of Jesus.
We welcomed anyone to make a contribution. Then we sat around the table afterwards, drank chai and talked. People were fascinated with our life together. As I said, many of them became followers of Jesus simply by observing our lifestyle of community and care for each other.
What is the Church’s Purpose?
Church was conceived in the heart of our Father as his way offering forgiveness to those who are blinded by the gods of this earth and justice to the oppressed. We are here for God. We will not fulfill our purpose on earth by escaping from the world; we are called to invade it, not escape from it.
We are here to turn dry bones of broken people into a living army of Jesus lovers who have the life of God breathed into their being.
God planned and created the 24,000 languages and peoples of this planet, and He will not be satisfied until every one of them love his son Jesus. He longs for them to be with Him in heaven. There are languages on earth that have never been heard in heaven.
He longs to hear His name worshipped by all the peoples of the earth before He wraps up history and brings us home. The book of Revelation paints a picture of a great party at the end of time when all nations and peoples gather around His throne and worship the Lamb of God.
Father yearns for lost sons and daughters to share in the party. That is why we are here.