I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Matt 16:18
Jesus told us His church would be victorious. Sometimes when we read this verse we think of the word “church” in an institutional way. We think about a building, a program or even the ministry that is unique to a denomination or particular tradition. Those are byproducts of that which Jesus spoke but not the original purpose.
The Greek word we translate “church” is ekklesia which is a compound word and gives us a clue to what Jesus originally intended. The first word “ek” is a preposition which modifies the verb that follows and is translated “out”. The second word is from the root of the verb, “to call.” When you put them together you have “those that are called out.” From that our European Bible translators focused on the people that are called out and chose the word “church” to translate ekklesia. Perhaps because in their day the ministry revolved around an elite few working out of an elaborately ornate building also called a church.
I wish they had chosen the words “fellowship” or “community”. Then the focus of Jesus victorious prophecy would have been on the people. What was it that would be so powerful in nature that the best of hell could not stop it? It was the community of believers banning together to complete the mission of Jesus. They were disciples following the example of their rabbi. When they did that the power of the Holy Spirit would come alive in them so that Jesus lived through them.
They were called out from the common way of selfishness and called out to a life that was sent–a life lived on mission. Jesus said, As the Father sent me so I send you. This purposeful, missional life will rob hell of its captives and set children of God free to be all that they were created to be. Jesus died for this and we, the community of those who are called out, get to seal the deal. Hell cannot stop us when we live in a community that is living as he did–rescuing people from darkness and purposelessness.
There are many benefits to this fellowship of the church. Clearly it was not created for simply our own benefit. We dare not approach it with a consumer’s attitude or let it become a lifeless institution. When we reduce it to an ideology, program, or tradition we rob it of the life and vitality it was created to give.
Let’s not be thinking of what our church can do for us but how we could be the community Jesus said would be unstoppable.