Posts Tagged ‘mission’

Understanding the Biblical Teaching about “Ekklesia” (Church)

The English word “church” has a range of meanings that are different from the basic meaning of the Greek word “ekklesia” from which it is translated. The English word can mean 1. a building, 2. an organization, 3. a specific kind of Sunday event, 4. and all believers everywhere. The core meaning of the Greek word “ekklesia” is “gathering” or “assembly.” In the New Testament usage, it refers to any gathering of God’s people for mutual edification and growth through devotion to the apostles teaching, fellowship, prayer, worship and other activities (Acts 2:42). The early church met primarily in homes, but “ekklesia” refers to any “gathering” for mutual edification and growth, whether large or small.

What we learn from this is that biblical “ekklesia-church” is not a building or an organization, or even a specific large gathering on Sunday, but rather any gathering for mutual edification. Thus, small group gatherings in homes for Bible study, prayer and community are “ekklesia-church” just as are large group gatherings in larger spaces.

What are the key elements of Biblical church?

There is wide agreement that Acts 2:42-47 provides a summary of the key elements, marks and priorities of biblical church. Tim Keller and John Stott summarize them in virtually the same way. Tim’s list is the following.

1. Vibrant Worship

2. Intimate, Exciting, Loving Fellowship and Community

3. Teaching With Theological Depth

4. Effective Communication of the Gospel (Evangelism)

5. Compassionate Social Concern

Some Observations About Large and Small Gatherings

The first three elements listed above are primarily the activities of the in-gathered church for mutual edification. The next two elements have to do with the church’s mission in the world.

1. Worship and Prayer

Many feel that vibrant worship is best done in larger gatherings. Large gatherings permit many voices raised in joyful song, and permit a number of musicians to lead the worship. On the other hand, “worship” is not limited to “singing,” and some aspects of worship can be engaged in easily alone or in small group settings.

2. Fellowship/Community/Koinonia

There is a growing consensus that genuine community can only be achieved by means of smaller group gatherings. How do you “bear one another’s’ burdens” in large gatherings? How can you practice the many “one another” commands in the New Testament? During a typical large group gathering, there is virtually no interaction between the participants, and many leave as soon as the service is over. A time for coffee and doughnuts and small talk after the worship service simply does not get at the depth of “shared life together” signified by the word “koinonia” and described more fully throughout the New Testament.

3. Devotion to the Apostles’ Teaching

Many understand this element from Acts 2:42 to be embodied in a Biblical “sermon” at large group gatherings. But the New Testament concept of “devotion to the apostles’ teaching” includes more than just listening to a sermon, especially in our current age. Since the invention of the printing press, believers have had personal access to the Word of God in a way the earliest believers did not. Devotion to the apostle’s teaching can take the form of reading Scripture, studying it, memorizing it, meditating on it, group discussion of the meaning of Biblical texts, discussion of personal and practical life application of Biblical texts, etc. It is obvious that some of these activities are best accomplished alone, or in a small group setting. The phrase “devotion to the apostles’ teaching” also carries with it the sense of faithfully putting the teaching into practice.


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This is part 3 of my notes and comments on Tim Keller’s talk on The Sufficiency of the Gospel in a Postmodern World.

Part 1 is here.

2. Gospel Realizing.


In Jonah 2:9 he says “Salvation is of the Lord.”  Some say this is the whole message of the Bible.  Didn’t Jonah know that?  Yes, but he did not fully grasp it.  We really haven’t begun to understand the gospel.  It is a life-long process. 

Religion is – I obey, therefore I am accepted.  The Gospel – I am accepted, therefore I obey.

The Gospel is scary because we are not in control.  There is nothing God cannot ask of you.

The self-worth of many ministers is tied to attendance.  If your self worth is tied to anything but God, you do not understand the gospel. 

We are like Coke machines- the money has gone in but the pennies have not dropped.  God has to pound us to get the pennies to drop.


From studying revival, he learned that revival is when the pennies drop for a whole group of people.  It is when the wonder of the gospel is understood, and lives become radiant.

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Five Marks (or “Vitamins”) of a Renewed, Vital, Revived, and Dynamic Church

From the sermon:

Blueprint for Revival; Introduction 2
From the series: Revival
by Dr. Timothy J. Keller
August 5, 1990
Acts 2:37-47
Duration: 41:01

5 things:

1.  Vibrant Worship

2.  Intimate, Exciting, Loving Fellowship and Community

3.  Teaching With Theological Depth

4.  Effective Communication of the Gospel (Aggressive Evangelism)

5.  Compassionate Social Concern

Keller lists these things at the 10 and 19 minute marks in the sermon.


I hope to supplement this post in the near future.


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This is part 2 of my notes and comments on Tim Keller’s talk on The Sufficiency of the Gospel in a Postmodern World.

Part 1 is here.


Six point approach to communicating the gospel in a post-modern society.

The first 3: 1. Gospel theologizing 2. Gospel realizing 3. Gospel urbanizing.

1. Gospel Theologizing

Jonah 1:1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, “Go to Nineveh and preach.” Keller used to think that the gospel was the basics, and theology was the advanced stuff. Now he sees that all theology has to be an exposition of the gospel.

Clear and Present WordMark Thompson has a book called Clear and Present Word about the clarity of the Word in a postmodern setting. He comes up with a view of human language that is gospel-based. It is based on the trinity. The goal of God speaking is divine saving action. Human language is an imperfectly utilized gift from God. The whole purpose of language is gospel.

Every part of our theology has to be an exposition of the gospel.



We also have to bring theology to bear on the gospel. Keller has not seen a gospel presentation that really addresses postmodern people.

The older ones (four spiritual laws) were: God, sin, Christ, faith. They got across grace not works, but there was no story arc. Systematic theology but no biblical theology. As a result, they were individualistic and almost consumeristic. The idea of the Kingdom of God was not there. The lordship of Christ over all of life is not part of them. It does not follow on from them.


When you go to the emerging church, the post-liberal church, it is all about the kingdom. The redemption story is there. We had a world that we wanted, lost it, Christ has created a people, brought the kingdom. Now you need to be part of God’s kingdom program which is going to heal the world of injustice. Emphasis on corporate, not individual, but you lose the emphasis on grace v. works and substitutionary atonement. In the end it is kind of a liberal legalism.


We need to develop user-friendly gospel presentations that merge both so that people can grasp it rather quickly and easily. But there has to be a process.


Comments to follow.

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