Posted by: Terry | February 19, 2010

Who determines ecclesiology? What is the church?

These last weeks I have been spending significant time considering the question of what is church. Just yesterday a friend asked, “Who determines ecclesiology?”

First a clarification of the word “ecclesiology.” It is simply the technical word for the study of the theology of the church. So the simple answer to my friends question is that God determines ecclesiology.

Our word “church” comes from the Greek word kuriakon, where we also get the word used in Scotland, “kirk.” The word used in the New Testament is ekklesia, used of a public assembly that has been called by a herald. Often it is translated as “assembly.”

God determines what the church is because he is the one who called it and established it.

  • To Peter he said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

  • In Ephesians Paul writes that God equips the church and makes it clear that the purpose of the church is to demonstrate the glory of God

The church is composed of those who have placed their faith in Christ Jesus as Lord. There is then a worldwide body of these believers, and these believers then gather in smaller groups in what we see as the local, visible church. Many attend a church, but they are not part of the church unless they have confessed their faith in Christ.

The local church assembles for the purpose of:

  1. Feeding and worship

  2. Fellowship and maturity

  3. Service and evangelism

Jesus told Peter to feed the sheep, he said in the great commission that they were to teach, the early church “devoted themselves to the teachings of the Apostles.” Paul equated feeding with teaching so believers would understand the why’s and how’s of their salvation.

Worship is a response to our understanding and amazement regarding who God is and what he has done, this follows from feeding. Worship that is not truth based and motivated is nothing but emotionalism and manipulation, therefore we must teach the truths that move people to be awestruck by the nature and work of God

Their fellowship was the result of their common faith; they needed mutual support. In the community of fellowship the truths of the Apostles and the Prophets (our Bible) were lived out in real life, the result was that they grew and matured in there faith. Community is where true maturity takes place.

Maturity leads to service, demonstrating to other believers and to the world around them the love and values that their faith produced in them. As a result the world around them noticed the radical difference and they were given the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Today our churches will vary in styles, and traditions yet we must not deviate in certain areas:

  • A clear proclamation of the Gospel. Paul said that he preached Christ, and Christ crucified. (1 Corinthians 2.2; 15.1-5) As the proclaimers of the truth we must be adamant in defending the truth of the Scripture.

  • All that we do must glorify God first, this must be our first objective before we do anything else.

  • We must be cautious to not reverse the order of, feed … to evangelism. If we do we risk tailoring what we do to the expectations of the world rather than to the glory and truth of the Gospel.

Finally, relevance is not the same as conformity. Implicit in the word ekklesia is the idea of “calling out of.” We are God’s church, the pillar of truth, so the world should see a difference when they walk through our doors. Difference does not equal dead, we can worship God with reverence in a way that makes sense to the world, though they cannot understand why we do what we do. We should be concerned if a non-believer is completely comfortable when they come, that could be a sign that in our attempt to be relevant we have begun to conform to the worlds style.

God determines ecclesiology, we implement the principles of Scripture with reverence and love all for the glory of God. That is church.



  1. Ecclesiology is the study of the church.

    God made the church.

    Does it necessarily follow that God made ecclesiology?

    If we accept for the moment that he did, can we assume that there exists a pure version of ecclesiology?

    • I believe that is a bit like asking if God made biology. God made the “bio” the “ology” is the study of it.

      If the question is does there exist a pure version of the church, then two thoughts come. There is a true church that exists without walls, the population of those who are believers – now of course we may have discussions in our world of what that exactly means, but I would guess that God has one deffinition not many, we simply attempt to acertain what that is from what he has revealed.

      As to is there a pure local church, nope. Are there some guidelines and broad parameters, yes.

  2. This is a very in-depth evaluation of the church. it is so important that we stay focused on what God intends for us do to as a church and as individuals. It is good to get your “Tea With God” messaga again.

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