“I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, AND THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT”
There was once a man who grew up in a small town, living a very simple life, working with his dad, and learning and growing in wisdom and in knowledge of the Bible. When this guy was about 30 years old, he started calling people to repent from sin, he began preaching and teaching the Bible with authority, he told people that he Himself is what their hearts have truly been longing for. He started healing people- giving the deaf their hearing, giving the blind their sight, causing crippled people to get up and walk. He cast demons out of people, fed 5,000+ people with 1 sack lunch, and he chose and gathered disciples. He started saying things like “I’m God” “You’re a sinner” “There’s a high penalty for sin- it’s eternal death and judgement” “But, I forgive sin” and “I am going to die so that sinners can be saved from the power and punishment of sin.” This guy had 12 men that he had chosen to be Apostles (leaders with authority) and one day he told them this: “I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). This man is Jesus Christ- God the Son, who entered into human history, adding humanity to his divinity; come to live, die, and resurrect to save his people from their sin. Jesus started building his church about 7,000 miles from here (Oklahoma), around 2,000 years ago. There were 120 Christians when Jesus’ ascended to heaven, and now there are around 1 billion. How did this happen; how did we go from 120 Christians to over a billion? Answer: Because Jesus is alive!
BECAUSE JESUS IS ALIVE
Jesus lived for his church’s righteousness, died for his church’s sin, and resurrected for his church’s salvation, and he sends his Holy Spirit to all who believe on Jesus. Jesus said “I will build my church” and he has done, and is doing, just that. This post is designed and organized to answer this question: when Jesus builds his Church, how does he build it?
I want to point you to 9 things that happen as Jesus Builds His Church.
1. JESUS’ CHURCH HAS REGENERATED CHURCH MEMBERS
Christians. In Acts 2:43-47 we see that those who were members of the church were those who were regenerated Christians, who were save by God’s sheer grace. They were convicted of sin, they were given a new heart by the Holy Spirit, they repented (turned) from sin to trusting in Jesus for salvation, they were forgiven, they were given the Holy Spirit and power through the Holy Spirit to live a new life for the glory of God, and they were baptized as an outward expression of their salvation. Those who were members were confirmed as Christians through repentance, faith, baptism, and a new life. Christians alone can can be covenant members of the local church. Christians alone can lead and serve. Christians alone can be in charge of things in ministry. But, is Church Membership in the Bible? At Ekklesia, we say, “absolutely!” and here’s why:
- A numerical record was kept (Acts 2:37-47)
- Records were kept of widows (I Tim. 5:3-16)
- Elections were conducted (Acts 6:1-6)
- Discipline was carried out (Matt. 18:15-20; I Cor. 5; Gal. 6:1)
- Pastors will be held accountable for members (Heb. 13:17)
- There was an awareness of who was a church member (Rom. 16:1-16)
Non-Christians. Non-Christians should be welcome at most anything to do with the church. At Ekklesia, non-Christian’s are welcome at worship gatherings, community groups, disciple groups, and love muskogee service projects. We love non-Christians, and because we love them and want them to be joyful, we compel them to repent to Jesus and be saved. We invite non-Christians to give their sin to Jesus and receive His righteousness, the Holy Spirit, a new life, and eternal life, a powerful life, a forgiven life, and a purposeful life for Jesus’ glory and their joy.
Become a Member. If you’re not a Christian, we invite you to become a Christian through turning from your sin to trusting Jesus for salvation. If you are a Christian, we invite you to become a covenant member of Ekklesia. To become a Covenant Member of Ekklesia, please read through our Membership Covenant and our Ekklesia Doctrinal Statement. After you have done that, please set up a meeting with a Pastor to pray through, discuss, and sign the Membership Covenant together.
2. JESUS’ CHURCH HAS CALLED & QUALIFIED LEADERS
Pastors. The word Pastor means “Shepherd.” Pastors are called and qualified shepherds of Jesus’ church. The word’s Elder, Pastor, and Overseer are used synonymously throughout the New Testament (they mean the same thing). Elder is like the job title (the position), whereas Pastor and Overseer are more like the job description (the responsibilities). At Ekklesia, we typically refer to this office as Pastor. Pastors are held accountable by Jesus for how they lead, feed, and guide the local churches that Jesus has entrusted to them (Hebrews 13:17). The Apostles were the Pastors of the early church and they spent their whole lives planting churches, and training other Pastors to lead the churches that were being planted. Pastors are called by the Holy Spirit. Paul, in Acts 20:28, tells the Pastors of the church in Ephesus that “the Holy Spirit has made you Overseers, to care for the church of God.” Pastors are qualified. 1 Timothy 3 & Titus 1 gives Jesus’ qualifications for being a Pastor. Pastors are men. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Timothy 3, tells us that only men are to be Pastors of local churches, not because men are better than women, but because God has created men and women differently, and given them different responsibilities in life.
Deacons. The word Deacon means “Servant.” Deacons are appointed and qualified lead-servants of the church. Deacons are appointed. Pastors appoint Deacons to be lead-servants in the local church. Acts 6 shows us the beginning of the office of Deacons, where the Pastors were getting bogged with work, so they appointed 7 deacons to help bear the load. They did this so that they would be able to spend more time in prayer and Bible study. Deacons are qualified. 1 Timothy 3 gives Jesus’ qualifications for being a Deacon. Deacons are both men and women. 1 Timothy 3, as well as Romans 16:1, show us that Deacons may be both men and women, if they are appointed and qualified.
3. JESUS’ CHURCH GATHERS REGULARLY FOR PREACHING & WORSHIP
Preaching. Acts 2:42 shows us that the church devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching. The church gathered regularly at the temple and at synagogues to worship through receiving preaching from their Pastors. Christianity started with a sermon (Acts 1-2), and Jesus keeps building his church where Pastors open the Bible, sin is seriously talked about, the gospel is proclaimed, people are compelled to repent from their sin to Jesus, and Jesus is exalted as the great God and Savior of the world.
Worship. The church typically gathers on Sundays, because that’s the day of the week that Jesus got out of the grave, resurrecting from death to eternal life for our salvation. When the church gathers, they worship Jesus through receiving preaching, through prayer and song, through taking Communion, through fellowship, through Baptism, and through giving financially to fuel the mission of Jesus’ church.
4. JESUS’ CHURCH SCATTERS REGULARLY FOR BIBLE STUDY, PRAYER, & MEALS
In Acts chapter 2, the early church met regularly in each other’s home for Bible study, prayer, and meals. At Ekklesia, we call these regular meetings Community Groups. If the local church is likened to a family, CG’s are the immediate family in the local church, whereas the Worship Gatherings are like family reunions. You love your entire family, gather to worship Jesus with your entire family, and are committed to your entire family’s good, but you live and are more specifically in your everyday life with your immediate family.
Community Groups. Community Groups exist to be smaller gatherings of Ekklesia Muskogee that are living on mission together to see Jesus known, praised, and exalted. This is sought after by loving each other like Jesus loves us, loving our cities like Jesus loves us, reaching the lost with the gospel, and discipling the saved in the gospel, all for the glory of God and the joy of all people in Him. Community Groups feed off of the pervious Sunday’s sermon that was preached as Ekklesia gathered for worship. The Scripture will contain the passage that was preached, the Big Idea is a summary of the sermon, and the Discussion Questions are geared toward helping facilitate conversation about the truth that was preached and how we should work to apply these truths to every aspect of our lives. Sunday’s Sermon and the Big Idea is like the planting of seeds and Community Group Discussion is like the watering of those seeds.
5. JESUS’ CHURCH HAS RIGHTLY ADMINISTERED SACRAMENTS
Jesus builds his Church and they rightly administer and observe Baptism and Communion (The Lord’s Supper). Baptism is all about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and outwardly shows what has inwardly happened- namely, that the Holy Spirit has opened your heart to receive salvation from Jesus, and that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the only means of salvation.
In addition, Communion is all about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. On the night Jesus was betrayed he took bread and wine, gave them to his disciples, and told them that they represent his broken body and shed blood for sin. Communion is about Christians physically receiving bread and wine (or juice if your conscience prefers) in remembrance of what Jesus has done on the cross- sacrificing himself for sin for his church’s salvation. Just before going to the cross, Jesus said, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25).
6. JESUS’ CHURCH HAS GOSPEL UNITY EMPOWERED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
This is Gospel-Unity, not Religious-Uniformity. Unity does not mean that we all wear beanies, plaid shirts, cool boots, cut our hair the same way, or all have to use the same translation of the Bible. That is uniformity. Unity does not mean that we all listen to indie music, or rap music, or heaven forbid, even country music. That is uniformity. Gospel-unity means that we are centered on Jesus, the gospel, our mission to love God and people by living holy lives and make disciples of all nations. The same Holy Spirit lives in all believers. He unites us in doctrine (core-beliefs) and mission (holiness and making disciples) for Jesus’ fame.
7. JESUS’ CHURCH IS SERIOUS ABOUT HOLINESS
Peter calls religious men to repent from their sin in Acts 2:38. The great reformer, Martin Luther, was right in his 95 thesis when he said, “When the Lord Jesus commanded that we repent, he meant for our whole life to be one of repentance” (my paraphrase). As Christians, for Jesus’ glory and our joy, we are to repent (turn) from sin to faith and obedience to Jesus all of our days.
Holiness is not a killjoy; sin is the killjoy. Holiness means striving to live the way we’re created and empowered to live by Jesus’ grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit. “We are saved by grace, through faith… for good works, which God prepared before that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). We want to help each other walk away from sin and walk towards Jesus and with Jesus for all of their days. In addition, James 1:25 says, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be happy in his doing.” In short, James is making sure we understand this: obedience to Jesus produces joy. If a church isn’t serious about holiness, then they don’t truly love one another.
8. JESUS’ CHURCH IS SERIOUS ABOUT THE GREAT COMMANDMENT TO LOVE GOD & LOVE PEOPLE
In Matthew chapter 22, Jesus says that the Great Commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love God. Jesus builds His church and they love him by obeying him, enjoying him, praying to him, reading and studying his Word (the Bible), and praising and thanking him as the creator, designer, and redeemer of all. “If you love me, you will keep my command” says Jesus, in John 14:15.
Love People. The church is serious about loving each other and the world through sharing the gospel, serving each other physically, serving each other spiritually by praying for one another and helping one another repent of sin and keep their eyes and hearts focussed on Jesus. Ekklesia has a Deaconal Fund that sets back a portion of the offerings to help and love those in the church as needs arise. Ekklesia also has a Love Muskogee Fund that sets back a portion of the offerings to help and serve those in our community for the glory of Christ and for our city’s joy. Galatians 6:10 sums this up well, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
9. JESUS’ CHURCH IS SERIOUS ABOUT THE GREAT COMMISSION TO MAKE DISCIPLES THROUGH EVANGELISM, TRAINING, & CHURCH PLANTING
Evangelism. In Acts 2:40, Peter preached the gospel. The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ life for righteousness, Jesus’ death for sin, and Jesus’ resurrection for salvation. After preaching, Peter then called them to repent (turn) from sin to Jesus for salvation from sin and death to freedom and life. In addition, Acts 2:47 points out that Jesus kept saving more and more people. This means that the early church was very passionate about telling people the gospel and compelling them to turn from sin to Jesus for salvation. Jesus Saves His people through His people’s evangelism.
Church Planting. Church planting is how the early church took the gospel to the world and that’s what we at Ekklesia are committed to as well. We believe the gospel needs to be taken everywhere. We also believe that healthy, Bible-loving, gospel-believing, Jesus-exalting churches need to be planted everywhere that their are both Christians and non-Christians. If you are a Christian, please see yourself as a Church-Planter. Not necessarily as Pastors or Deacons, but definitely as Senders, who support financially, or Goers who would be foundational members in a new church-plant.
I pray that this post has served well to show what the Bible says a local church is and does. All glory be to Christ!
Always seeking your joy,