the weblog of Alan Knox

We’re not “called out”

Posted by on Nov 17, 2010 in definition, missional | 9 comments

We’re not “called out”

Recently, I’ve posted a few quotes from commentaries in which the authors say that the Greek term ekklesia (usually translated “church”) means “assembly” and not “called out ones.” Why is this important?

The idea of the church being “called out” usually leads to the conclusion that the church is called out of the world. But, this is exactly opposite of what Jesus taught. In his prayer in John 17, Jesus prays:

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:15-16 ESV)

Jesus specifically prays that his followers (the church) remain in the world, not that they would be taken out of the world (or “called out of the world”).

Unfortunately, so many have accepted this idea that God has called his people out of the world that they then need to figure out how to get back to the world in order to carry out God’s mission.

What’s the answer? Stay in the world… stay connected to the world… maintain relationships with the world… build relationships with the world… remain in the world, even though our source of strength, power, hope, salvation, etc. is not from the world (“of the world”).

As the church, we are assembled by God in the world. We are not called out of the world; we are called into the world.


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  1. 11-17-2010

    Good blog! I’ve always seen the ‘called out’ idea, rather more as the ‘called apart’ of Jesus and His disciples, when, from time to time, He called them away from ministry and the day to day activity with it’s demands and pressure, to a place where He could intimately meet with them. Sure, most of the time we are in the hurly burly of life in the world -demonstrating Him and enabling Him to work through us, but we do need to come apart and spend time with Him…

  2. 11-17-2010


    Thank you for bringing this to the fore!

  3. 11-17-2010

    This is such a tricky one… I say that only because these verses have been used and taken to extremes at both ends of the spectrum, each extreme having some dire consequences…

    John 17:15,16 seems to get a little more clarification when we read up, and see verses 9 – 11:

    “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you.”

    It seems then that when Jesus says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world”, He is saying that He is not asking the Father to take the disciples up to heaven, with Him. He seems to be referring to it in the literal sense, a.k.a., a “rapture” sort of thing…

    Of course, some people take these verses and think that it means we should go off and live in caves, or some commune or something. (or, most commonly, to “insulate” ourselves with our own “church culture”…) That’s one extreme that is of course, not biblical.

    But then, almost as a reflex to such ideas, others come along and propose that we are to be “in the world”, to the degree that we should be rolling up our sleeves and injecting our “Christian influence” into every sphere of society, from media, to the arts, business and government. “Building relationships with the world” becomes a mantra which effectively sanctions just about any sort of endeavor, so long as it is stamped and sanctified by calling it “ministry”.

    Whenever I read “the World” in scripture, I can reach no other conclusion that to read that as the “System” (capitol S) which is ultimately controlled and manipulated by Satan himself. Of course, we are called to love and build relationships with people who are in the World, in that system, but that is something quite different than allying ourselves with the System itself…

  4. 11-17-2010


    We are definitely called by God to be different. And we are different because of our relationship to God, identity in Christ, and the indwelling Spirit. Any physical separation in Scripture was temporary and for a specific purpose.

    Aussie John,

    Thank you for the encouragement.


    I agree that we are not to become part of the worldly system. We are not to love the world or the things of the world. But, we are to remain in the world and not separate ourselves (isolate ourselves) from the world. We are to be unstained by the world, and yet serve those who remain part of the world.


  5. 11-19-2010

    Called out of our comfort zones is more like it. ;-P

  6. 11-19-2010


    I like that kind of being “called out.”


  7. 11-20-2010

    I believe the Church is “called out” as a spiritual family, but our purpose is to pursue His mission on this planet, which requires that we not only be in the world, but among those who are in the world, always remembering that being among them never means being above them. The only thing that makes us different or “called out” is that we have Jesus and they don’t. It’s the presence of Jesus among His people that makes us “called out” or different, and that same presence of Jesus should be what inspires us to be in the world, not of it, shining His light where ever we go daily, “as we are going”, even being a friend of sinners as He was.

  8. 11-20-2010


    You said, “The only thing that makes us different or ‘called out’ is that we have Jesus and they don’t.” That’s exactly right. Of course, that’s a big thing. 🙂


  9. 11-20-2010

    I would suggest they aren’t “aware” that they have Jesus.