The Ekklesia of God
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple [area], they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.
Easter Sunday is a day when the faithful would want to gather together as a church but can’t. The global coronavirus pandemic, along with its related guidelines restricting social gatherings, have forced the church doors to close on Easter Sunday celebration. If Christians do gather face-to-face as a church, they could be charged with a criminal offense and face a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine in some states.
As many Christians fight back to reclaim their freedom to worship, their religious buildings have become a battleground. All across the country, police are cracking down on churches, sometimes raiding the church buildings and issuing summonses.
For most traditional-minded Christians, the word “church” brings up images of stained-glass windows, altars, crosses, pulpits, pews and large buildings with architecture ranging from Gothic to more modern styles.
Many congregants connect the church with a building, often giving them a sense of stability to their faith, as well as a special space to worship God and to meet with other church members.
And so, we easily take church buildings for granted. Today, it is hard to imagine a local community without at least one church building located in its midst.
But when Christianity was still in its infancy, there were no such church buildings in existence. Where did the early Christians gather before these church buildings were built? In Acts 2:46, we read, “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple [area], they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” We get a brief yet curious peek into the lives of the earliest Christians—those who knew Jesus or saw his resurrected body.
The New Testament provides several references to house churches (Acts 12:12; 16:40; Romans 16:3, 5; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1-2). These were family homes where early believers would gather and devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
I want to remind all the other churches across the country, that the physical building is not the church, nor does going under its material roof make the people a church.
There are two Greek words for “church.” Kyriakon and ekklesia. Kyriakon means “House (building) belonging to the Lord.” It is a word that is never used in the New Testament. The Greek word ekklesia, however, means “a gathering of people” or a “community of believers.” It is the word that is used throughout the New Testament for church.
The church is not a building made of steel and concrete, but a living body of Christ made of believers. The early Christians gathered as a church in the homes of believers, just as we are doing today during this coronavirus crisis. We choose to worship God and celebrate his goodness as we gather together in our homes as did the early Christians.
Therefore, Christians don’t “GO TO CHURCH” in reference to a physical building, but we “ARE THE CHURCH” in reference to the spiritual body of Christ. Jesus called his followers to “BE THE CHURCH” in the world.
The government can exercise their authority to close the doors of a physical church building, but they are rendered powerless to shut down the spiritual body of Christ, the worldwide living, breathing and gathering groups of believers called the ekklesia, the church of God.
This past Easter Sunday, the government may have threatened to crack down on Christians warning us with jail sentences and steep penalties saying, “Don’t GO to church!” But these public officials cannot stop Christians from “BEING the church” in our homes, worshiping God and making him known in our corner of the world.
In-Home LifeGroup Prayer
Heavenly Father, this Easter, when our church buildings have been closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, we thank you for the opportunity to freely celebrate the resurrection of Christ in our respective homes.
You called us to gather and be your ekklesia, the body of Christ, in our corner of the world. Our physical buildings may have been shut down, but our spiritual body, the ekklesia of God, continues to worship you.
During this time of crisis, teach us how to be your church as we faithfully gather in our homes and connect with each other through social media for teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayers. Amen.