Alot of people have different ideas on what the Church really is. Most have a view that is much too American in its expression. They still see the Church as a building focused concept or they think the emerging house church movement is the answer. Neither really fit the bill for biblical expression of the Church.
Ecclesiology is the study of the Church but what exactly does it include? I believe we could conclude that the Church is two expressions (at least). It is the Bride of Christ and it is the Army of the Lord.
See Dr. Jay Taylor (Assemblies of God Theology Seminary) handouts on Ecclesiology
Two words for the Church are ekklesia and kyriakos . It means quite literally, to called out or summoned and belonging to the Lord Jesus.
Here is the Strong’s says about Ekklesia,
ekklēsía(from 1537 /ek, “out from and to” and 2564 /kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.
As I said, it is about belonging to Jesus (Bride of Christ) and being called out and summoned for His Kingdom (Army of the Lord).
The Church is the Bride of Christ
One of the least understood identities of the believer is the Bride of Christ. I rarely hear teaching on this. I find it very odd given the last mention of the saints in the Bible is calling us the Bride.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. (Revelation 22:17)
When we see ourselves as the Bride, it changes everything. Brides do not work for acceptance; they are accepted because they are loved. My father never stood up and told my mother that is a “to do” list for accepted as his bride. How much more true would that be for our Heavenly Father?
As John Arnott loves to say, “Lovers will always outlast workers.” As believers we should identify ourselves as lovers of Jesus, not as slaves, or “christian workers.” We do not work for God, we are co-labors and that means we are joined hand in hand with the Lord doing His mission to the lost and dying world. A deep understanding being a co-labor changes everything.
One thing that amazes me as I have traveled the world is how few people actually even know where to find the Song of Songs in their bible. Even fewer have read it, understand it and can apply it. I have heard many pastors try and make it about a marriage between two people. The Song of Songs is a prophetic picture of the Bride of Christ and the Bridegroom Jesus.
Songs of Songs 2:10 is an invitation be part with Jesus and walk in Pentecostal authority rooted in the intimacy we have with the Bridegroom.
My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. (Song of Songs 2:10)
The Church is the Army of the Lord
Alot of people confuse this with teaching out of the Latter Rain revival, and one of the things we reject, known as Joel’s Army. The Army of the Lord is very biblical but Joel 2 is not the place to find it. The bible talks about the people of the Lord being an army. David, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Joel, Hosea, Jesus and Paul all talk about it.
I remember growing up in the Assemblies of God and we would sing in Children’s church a song called the Lord’s Army. As I remember it, ” I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery, I may never fly o’er the enemy, but I’m in the Lord’s army!” The concept is deeply rooted in scripture and Pentecostal tradition.
We are not an Army with M-16 rifles, grenades and tanks. We are an army that will give our lives (martyr) for the mission we have been called to do. Our marching orders are simple, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation… these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:15,17-18)
Isn’t the Church the Body of Christ?
Many want to place such a strong emphasis on the conception of koinonia, or collection of a community. I wonder if we are rightly understanding what Paul was saying when he did use that word. One of the easiest ways to misunderstand biblical text is to spiritualize what was first century Jewish culture.
Relationships should be the by-product of people on a common journey and mission to be the Bride of Christ and the Army of the Lord. They should happen naturally and not become an emphasis of theology from America’s pulpit. When we force it, the relationships are normally not organic, not spiritual, and does not last the test of time. The purpose of the Church is to transform the world around us, not having better homes and gardens.
As I travel, I see churches that put relational ministry ahead of the Great Commission quickly die out, lose membership, and end up being little more than a Alcoholics Anonymous with Jesus thrown into the subject matter.
Jesus was pretty serious about the ten virgins. What you do not give away, you lose yourself. If you are not growing with new souls in the Bride of Christ; you are have lost focus. No Army can last and do great exploits for the Lord without recruitment. All armies must be build up!
What is the Church to you?