As most of us – and most followers of Christ – know, the word translated “church” in our English New Testaments is the Greek noun ÎµÎºÎºÎ»Î·Ïƒá½·Î± (ekklÄ“sia). Some continue to make a big deal of the etymology of the word and suggest that ÎµÎºÎºÎ»Î·Ïƒá½·Î± (ekklÄ“sia) means “called out ones”. In fact, the word simply refers to an assembly or a gathering.
When, used to refer to the ÎµÎºÎºÎ»Î·Ïƒá½·Î± (ekklÄ“sia) of God, it would thus mean the assembled or gathered people of God. The discussion continues as to whether this is a fixed, continuous assembly or an assembly that may be in flux. Regardless, the phrase points to a group of God’s people as they are gathered together.
As you probably know if you read my blog regularly, I am very interested in the meeting of the church – that is, the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the people of God when they assemble. Primarily, I am studying the purpose for the meeting of the church. I believe that purpose is edification or building up the people of God toward maturity in Christ.
However, as I was thinking about ÎµÎºÎºÎ»Î·Ïƒá½·Î± (ekklÄ“sia) a few days ago, I realized that a gathering or an assembly, by its nature, suggests a dispersal. The people of God gather because, in general, they are not assembled – they are dispersed. Whether we meet weekly, bi-weekly, semi-weekly, or even daily, we still spend most of our time dispersed – separated from one another.
This is where we find our mission – while we are dispersed. Our mission – task, if you will – is not to assemble, but to be ambassadors of God to those who are not part of his family. If we find our time consumed with gathering – assembling – meeting – then we have missed our most important duty of being salt and light to the world – of taking the gospel to those outside the church – of speaking God’s grace and truth into lives who are far from God.
Gathering is important. It is very important. But, it is not everything. In fact, gathering suggests dispersal. God gathers us together with his family by his Spirit, because we are not normally gathered; we are normally dispersed. But, if we find ourselves spending all of our time and effort and resources gathering, then I think we are missing something important – very important.
Yes, gather together with brothers and sisters in Christ. Build up one another using the gifts that God provides, and thereby bring glory to God. But, also, don’t forget to disperse in order to take the gospel to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, even strangers that God brings into your life.