The word ekklesia means “called-out ones” and refers to an assembly of called-out people.
This is very interesting when we see that by one edict forbidding the assembly of people thanks to the Coronavirus, the very purpose of the ekklesia has been, it would appear, taken out of the equation. If church is an assembling of saints, the prohibition of assembling strikes at the very heart of church.
If the need for these Coronavirus protocols fizzles out quickly, probing questions must be asked about how the ekklesia could be nullified and taken out of the game so quickly, with church leaders meekly toeing the government line.
On the other hand, if the lockdown proceeds to be more long-term, this will cause the ekklesia to be redefined. It is absolutely vital that we don’t allow the world to define ekklesia but that we redefine church ourselves, by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
We can begin this now by taking on board the scriptural truth that the foundation of the ekklesia is apostles and prophets working in the purpose of God and with Christ being the Chief Cornerstone (see Ephesians 2:20).
Building any edifice without a foundation is folly; sadly much of the “church” world has been trying to do this for much of its 2,000 years.
Much of what we call church is My kingdom come, not Thy Kingdom come – churches run as fiefdoms and businesses rather than the true ekklesia of God.
So what does the true ekklesia look like? That is what we must find out and we need to do it fast.
Our business-as-usual model has been found to be sorely lacking. In a lockdown world, it is not fit for purpose. The decision by churches to go online as a back-up temporary measure is understandable but is predicated on the idea that this is just a stopgap till we can reassemble as before.
The problems with that approach are manifold. For example, what if we cannot go back to how we once were and what if we are not meant to? If the lockdown goes on too long and the financial ramifications make going back to normal unsustainable, what then? Start again and build it up?
The real question is not can we go back but should we? What if our churches fell apart like a £2 watch because they were flimsy and shallow compared to what God desires HIS ekklesia to be? Do we have the courage to face up to the possibility we gave been doing church wrong? If we resort to the argument that Coronavirus is a once-in-a-century event that nobody and no church could deal with, what does that say about us and our God?
Yes, lots of questions are being asked here but they have to be asked.
The other, almost unthinkable scenario is this: What if we are assuming the government(s) are NOT hostile to the Gospel and have no wish to shut us down and what if this assumption is wrong? This means that to truly shut churches down, governments only need to hit the internet kill switch.
What if they don’t but the internet goes down, anyway?
We need to think long and hard about what church is and what it has to do to adapt.
The church has faced lockdown before. The Covenanters in Scotland had to meet on moors at peril of their lives, with no SUVs to take them there. The Chinese church has had to meet in secret for years.
In other words, the church might have to go underground to fulfil its God-assigned purpose, which is to assemble.
If meeting for church becomes a criminal offence, will you be found guilty?
The answer depends, of course, on how much church means to you.
At this moment complying with the present protocols looks like the prudent course of action to take. Stay at home and spend time with God is sound advice right now.
But indefinite restrictions on the God-ordained practice of fellowshipping with one another is another matter entirely.
The church must be the church. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the ekklesia of God.