Part 8 of What We Should Have Seen, Where We Go From Here (8/8)
I am told that each September in northern Manitoba, Canada, the temperature drops and rain freezes—token indicators of the long, cold winter to come. A sign by the road reads, “Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for the next 60 miles.” Based on ideas I introduced last week, I fear that with the willing adoption of the inferior word, church, the Body of Christ has been in a 2000-year rut of our own making.
To conclude this eight part series, I will now submit a thought system, or historic framework, for your consideration. The urgency with which I have proposed an ekklesia overhaul of church culture will make more sense in light of this framework, which attempts to identify certain major spiritual transitions concerning the knowledge of God over the last six thousand years. By one reckoning, man’s relationship to God, including God’s mission for man, has shifted “spiritual platforms” six times. Here they are:
- Firstly, a shift in man’s relationship to God is represented in the move from the Tree of Life to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil
- Secondly, a shift happened from universal to particular relationship after God scattered the nations, but called a single man, Abraham, to follow Him
- Thirdly, when God added the Mosaic covenant to Israel’s charter with Him
- Fourthly, the radical shift from old covenant to new around AD 30-ish in the death, resurrection and Acts 2 birthing of the Body of Christ
- Fifthly, when Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity’s relationship to the state with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, and
- Sixthly, the massive spiritual platform shift that took place during Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. In each of these instances, history itself shifted.
While the list could be argued, the main point is that history-altering, spiritual platform shifts are rare. Many powerful revivals could be considered, but true revivals, while seismic and often possessing powerful shockwaves, rarely transform the landscape beyond religious vectors into the non-religious. Revival is what God does, but a spiritual platform (in my usage) forms the paradigm for us to process what He is doing. I contend that a seventh great platform shift has been waiting in the wings for nearly 2000 years, and it is coming none too soon. We need revival, but we need a platform shift to sustain it.
The seventh great platform shift will be from “church” to “ekklesia.”
A REVOLUTION OF REALIGNMENT
As described last week, to validly interpret Jesus as telling Peter He would build His church would require Matthew 16:18 to read thus, “Upon this rock I will build my kuriakon,” literally forcing a different word into the text. Simon Peter would have replied, “Huh? What’s that?” because there is no New Testament Greek word to convey the equivalent of our modern English word.
I’ve written an entire book about how far we’ve veered from those words and that mission by building our systems and paradigms upon an acknowledged mistranslation. Since 2010 when the Lord first started showing me these things in Scripture and history, I haven’t been able to treat it casually. It’s not a crusade, its a problem to be fixed. I don’t care how much infrastructure, emotion, money and sentiment we’ve invested in church culture, I believe we’ve erred, and it’s costing us. Then 2020 comes along and wallops us with the price tag. If the government has to authorize what we are doing and give it meaning and credibility, we have already lost our way.
I take no joy in this assessment, but these are not the days for platitudes and bias confirmation. Worst of all, I fear we might just be stubborn and narrow-minded enough to happily get back to business-as-usual, rather than seizing the opportunity this moment offers the global church. It’s a rare moment. Never waste a good crisis, much less an era-shifting crisis!
The question, of course, is to what do we realign? Do we just start shouting at demons? Study apologetics? Witness to everyone, everywhere, all the time? Take our place in public discourse? Vote? Suffer in silence for the sake of the Sermon on the Mount? What does salt and light look like? What constitutes godly influence, leadership and prophetic truth-telling? If we respond rightly in this hour, we could start a revolution no smaller than restoring our mission to its proper alignment to the goal of Jesus to raise up an ekklesia capable of expanding His kingship across the earth. This is about territorial expansion. It’s about dominion, but take note, that is a very different proposition and process than domination! The ekklesia isn’t a tool for earthly power, nor total triumph, nor the creation of a global theocracy. It’s about expressing the will and values of our king in small, nimble communities of faith and prayer, pressing against every invisible foe, in every city, every nation, till the lost are saved, the blind and sick are healed, the demonized are set free, the elect are brought into their election, and the king returns.
Is that how you think of church? On a typical Sunday morning, do you go to church intending to convene a parliament of prayer with other believers, legislating spiritual authority over your community and region, breaking demonic powers, releasing the covenant blessing of the Cross, so that Heaven could draw near and kiss the souls of men? Hardly. We have glitzy music concerts, motivational messages, and a potluck. I’m going to give five specific recommendations to close this article, but it was Tozer who first observed, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.” We’ve largely ignored the Lord’s desired blueprint, erecting fancy Gentile synagogs in their place, all while informing the Lord, “Be happy! This is close enough and it works really well of us!”
How’s it working in the days of Covid-19?
Don’t abandon the church, reform it
My point is not to throw down the church, but to raise it up…to realign it to the full intent and power vested in the ekklesia. The negative public perception of church is often well-deserved. Church culture is often an insular, closed system—conservative in action and small in vision—as opposed to demonstrating the bold apostolic and prophetic witness which characterized first century believers. Churches (kyriakos oikia) meet 2-3 times a week mainly to reinforce and edify a local group of people by tending to pastoral concerns, preaching sermons, and growing the Christian family. While this is a vital, thoroughly Biblical aspect of body life, it hardly represents the full scope of what Jesus intended. Is it any wonder we have a hard time motivating the flock? However, the drift makes sense. Viewed from a certain vantage point, the church has actually done a fantastic job of building what it thinks Jesus committed to, i.e. if we understand Jesus to be building a church, our energies should naturally focus on attending to those who gather regularly to the Lord’s house.
A church can evangelize, feed the poor, build the family and run a great Sunday School program, but it takes an ekklesia to act with senatorial spiritual authority across their region. That’s why the ekklesia is founded on apostles and prophets (Eph. 1:22, 23, 2:20). The mindset is different. The chief values of the typical church are numerical growth and bigger buildings, rather than advancing a mission. A local ekklesia definitely needs strong pastoral leadership, so the 5-Fold Ministry model remains vital. But it is considerably more difficult to harvest a culture of ruling prayer and sacrificial community from a traditional church than it is to integrate pastoral care into an ekklesia. Quite often, a well-intentioned reformist within his local fellowship or even a well-known pastor will offer a critique of the Body of Christ, something like, “We need to quit playing games and be the church!” Their zeal is sincere, but their diagnosis is entirely inaccurate. The problem is, we’ve been the church for hundreds of years. We need to be the ekklesia.
Jesus Did Not Have a Limited Vocabulary
In other words, He didn’t lack options. Jesus could have described many alternatives to Peter. He could have said He would build His family, bride, temple, army, kingdom, etc. Actually, if “church” was really what He intended, He could have more easily adopted the word synagogue. “Blessed are you, Peter, and on this rock I will build my synagogue.” Culturally and spiritually, this would have made sense and been more synonymous with the concept of a local religious meeting place, especially among Jews. He chose instead a religiously neutral, Gentile, explicitly governmental term with 500 years of history by the time He employed it.
Liddell and Scott, J.H. Thayer, Oskar Seyffert and others all point to the definition and usage of ekklesia as a governmental assembly. No wonder that when Paul and Silas arrived in Thessolonica, Paul followed his custom by proclaiming in the synagogue that “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ” (Acts 17:3). What happened next? A mob formed because the Thessalonians did not miss the implications: “These men who have upset the world have come here also…and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:7).
Two chapters later, in Ephesus, something even more revealing took place. Another uprising occurred among the locals after Paul preached there. In English, it says “a great assembly” formed to re-exert the superiority of Artemis, goddess of Ephesus. But not any assembly. It was a city-wide ekklesia! I’ll insert the proper Greek into the quotes below.
Luke describes how “a great disturbance about the Way” filled the city at the urging of “a silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis.” (Acts 19:23-24). The idol-making brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen, so he called them together and stirred them up with how much Paul’s preaching threatened their lucrative business.Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Paul’s traveling companions and rushed to the local meeting place. Then it says this: “The ekklesia was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” (vs. 32)
Someone made a defense, so the city clerk quieted the crowd and appealed to protocol, saying: “If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal ekklesia” (vs. 39). In other words, they were in danger of acting like a rioting mob rather than a properly constituted ruling council. This shows the ongoing function and authority of the secular ekklesia in the Hellenized Roman world. An ad-hoc ekklesia of adult men complained to the city authorities about this rabble-rousing Jew named Paul, and it carried legal weight. Isn’t it ironic that our New Testament translations correctly interpret ekklesia in its secular usage in Acts 19, but consistently render the same word as a religious term, church, everywhere else?
Interestingly, no one argued whether Paul’s actions were essential or not. His mission and message demanded a response. He had brought a spiritual challenge to the powers. In Matthew 16:18, God installed another regime on planet earth, a government that would be responsible and loyal to Him above all others. Implicit in Christ’s words, “My ekklesia” is a threat to every corrupt government and demonic principality. The disciples understood this.
I urge you to absorb the full weight of these statements while not misinterpreting them. The ekklesia is not an earthly militia or political body. According to Mat. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Tim. 2:1-3; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-15, the body of Christ on earth should be peaceful citizens, upholding the law, submitting to authority, acting as salt and light to withhold lawlessness. The ekklesia of Christ is the friend of righteous government. However, should any government require the ekklesia to violate their obedience to God as part of submission to the state, our higher loyalty always prevails. Ekklesial rulership threatens every wicked king and corrupt government. Armed with prayer, fasting, prophetic decrees and, if needed, the laying down of our lives, the ekklesia expose corruption, unmask false ideologies, and challenge policies of murder and witchcraft in the heavens until they are overthrown on earth. We must not lose the continuity between the Millenial kingdom’s perfect rule and the requirement that we practice dominion now.
Intimacy moves God’s heart, but dominion gives Him honor.
We need to be ready. Various trendiness are all heading towards a cliff.
As salt and light, we should begin anticipating the wide range of scenarios and unprecedented challenges the nations of the world are about to face (see more in the Appendix). For now, I will leverage the observations of futurist Thomas Frey, who offered nineteen Covid-19 trendlines worth noting. Firstly, not only will this be the most expensive crisis in history, with an economic toll far greater than the viral toll, it will rewrite the rulebook for dealing with future crises. This will bring about sweeping new powers for elected officials. Meanwhile, we are about to witness the biggest job transition in all history. There will be mounting pressure to dramatically reinvent healthcare. The post-Covid airline industry will look very different than it does today. Retail, education, and media are about to undergo radical changes.
Frey also predicts a “loneliness epidemic”, but perhaps his most interesting speculation is also the most vaguely defined, simply that “The unintended consequences of COVID-19 will be epic.”
“When dystopian thinking and transformational thinking collide, great things can happen. We are about to enter the most innovative period in all history. When people have time to think and reflect, they also have time to innovate. Millions of new businesses will be created, millions of new products launched, millions of new services transformed.
But for those who cannot adapt to the new realities of life, the COVID-19 downside will manifest itself in many stress-related ways including a ramp up in things like domestic violence, child abuse, suicides, drugs, alcohol, spousal abuse…protests, riots, and fighting.”
In other words, the ekklesia have a lot of guidance, governing, discerning, proclaiming, healing and life-giving to do.
Ekklesia “prayerdigm shifts” and apostolic-prophetic mission hubs
Let’s pull it all together. Sunday morning dawns. You wake up. Do you think: “I’m going to church this morning” or “I’m joining the Divine Senate”? The difference could be compared to a man in Revolutionary France saying, “I’m going to my book club” or “I’ve just joined the Resistance!” Where might the ekklesia be today if, instead of thinking like “the church” for 400 years, they thought like a “ruling council”?
Furthermore, to interpret merely as “congregation” or “assembly,” while technically accurate, misses the contextual urgency of why the Greek ekklesia met. Every single time “two or three have gathered together in My name” (Mat. 18:20) a Christ Caucus has convened. An executive council, a territorial tribunal. You cannot read the resulting impact of the convening of the ekklesia—hell assaulted, binding and loosing, etc.—and not see the determined actions of people taking their stand as agents of the will and values of God’s kingdom on earth. Not just Sunday, but every day, you have been summoned to deliberate, legislate, and exert the will of God on demonic systems, injustice and false ideologies.
“Now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the ekklesia to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places”Eph. 3:10
Anyone reading the headlines can see that the earth is groaning, society is tottering, and darkness is exalting itself like never before. The wisdom of God is waiting to be revealed through the humble, servant governance of the ekklesia. Who among the people of God will rise in the spirit to challenge the rising tide? Supplication, adoration, confession and thanksgiving are regular parts of a prayer diet, but contending prayer for the nations must dramatically increase. Day and night, prayer must shake the earth.
Church culture has a wonderful mix of pastoral, teaching and communal functions, but the necessary future begs for a church that will expand its identity and mission with ekklesial, territorial thinking. When we realize we are the ekklesia, a “prayerdigm shift” is inevitable because the word itself properly aligns our identity with government and prayer as Jesus intended. I further believe this will lead to a series of structural and functional changes, along with reprioritizations of our time and resources.
The seventh great platform shift of an ekklesia-restored church will:
- Be more apostolically and prophetically driven than pastor-teacher driven. Part of this shift will be realized in Sunday mornings becoming more like Assignment and Deployment Centers (think the White House Situation Room, or the National Military Command Center). Ekklesia-restored churches will be engaged at a different level, seeking to cast vision around a particular opportunity or crisis, then bringing intelligent, revelatory tactical plans for targeted interventions in the city, along with mercy campaigns, justice outreaches, evangelism, prayer schedules and intercessory targets which are then executed throughout the week. Apostolic unction combined with fresh and accountable prophetic revelation will drive a renaissance of assignment-oriented commissions being distributed to, and owned by, micro-ekklesias within the larger ekklesia, transforming neighborhoods and regions. Such churches will necessarily raise up powerful equipping models that effectively position themselves as local garrisons for gentle spiritual militias of immovable resolve, constantly taking new ground, and teaching others to do the same.
- Shape the new era with innovations that enable more mobile, responsive and adaptive in organization, style and communication. Entrepreneurship is returning. Technology will be part of this, but it will not be tech-dependent. Gains will largely occur in areas of functional and relational health produced by believers single-mindedly laboring together on a common mission. Sunday mornings will no longer be cookie-cutter experiences, nor will Sunday be the only day that matters. The church “service” will become a smorgasbord of functional and precise trainings, celebrations, revelations, upgrades. Services will become coordination hubs bathed in prayer. A flexible economy of time will emerge, and people will joyfully convene for a variety of reasons, only occasionally at the main building.
- More dynamically connect to one another across distances. The new church will form coalitions with other like-minded entities in the marketplace, parachurch groups, and other local ekklesias. These ad-hoc networks will benefit from minimal official oversight, freeing resources to stay focused on their shared vision, with each filling roles the other cannot, mutually celebrating successes achieved en route to the larger goal. These connections will proliferate across cities, states, and nations. The ultimate “long distance connection” will further involve increased angelic interactions, visitations, and a sense of the cooperation of cloud of witnesses.
- Be more committed to gathering, not less. Ironically, this will be paired with a greater “sending mentality,” but the resolve to assemble will flow naturally from the increased sense of responsibility that comes with an ekklesia paradigm of local spiritual governance. None of us look favorably on congressman and senators that don’t show up for the vote. Much of our normal church routine is hopelessly boring and lacking in urgency. By contrast, the ownership of local initiatives and legislative acts of intercession, along with increased testimonies of breakthrough, will cause new energy and appreciation for why the writer of Hebrews urged for believers not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” Furthermore, a proper understanding of Matthew 18 means that real spiritual authority is distributed into small groups that come together in His name anywhere, any time. Not only will an ekklesia paradigm encourage the larger corporate gatherings, it will also fuel smaller groups to invade every sphere of society. Groups of two or three (or seven or ten) will abound.
- Patiently and strategically embed themselves in society and culture. Like leaven, the new church is going to happily go incognito. Gone are the days when churches need to be known for sponsoring an effort. The net effect of the four items already listed will produce both effective strategies and passionate volunteers who will look to function as slow-rising yeast in key cultural assignments. This type of thinking will increasingly guide the “career path” of young people. As Daniel, they will gain stature and favor by cultivating anointing combined with an excellent spirit, gracious wisdom and the savoir faire necessary for influence. Churches will become secret patrons of these efforts, grooming and schooling young and old, families and singles, men and women, for long-term impact. Entire industries and deeply intractable injustices will be transformed by these efforts. Yes, open evangelism will flourish, but so will blessings and reformation by subterfuge, patient investment, and anointed diplomacy.
Nothing in these eight articles should be construed as being personally antagonistic toward, or casting aspersions against, the King James Bible or the church. I write with conviction to uphold the original meaning and use of the God inspired, intended Word, to recognize where we have veered off course, and to humbly admit our personal and corporate shortcomings, all with a sense of great hope and confidence that the Holy Spirit is doing a mighty work in our day, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
I offer these articles, at minimum—warts, limitations, blindspots and all—as fuel for conversation and reflection, and as provocation for change. If I were to admit my full aspiration, I would even dare to present it as a semi-manifesto for a new reformation spirit to sweep the church.
Jesus is coming. Even so, Lord, come.
“Not just revelatory…it‘s revolutionary“
GO DEEPER INTO THE EKKLESIA REVOLUTION
Jesus is building something far greater than a Sunday Service.
“Ekklesia Rising will fuel such a flame of intercessory dominion in your soul. The revelation contained in these pages has launched me into a whole new paradigm of prayer, one I believe will fuel a reformation of missions and bring back the King” – Lou Engle, author, Digging Wells of Revival
“Dean Briggs has given the 2.0 upgrade in the study of the ekklesia and its relevancy to the true meaning, mission, and methodology of the church. I not only strongly recommend Ekklesia Rising, I am grateful for the additions it makes to see the church change the world.” – Dennis Peacocke, President and Founder, GoStrategic and The Statesman Project
“Ekklesia Rising is replete with truth born of genuine revelation. Its pages contain biblical truth that may extend beyond the reach of the casual reader but will surely ignite a fire in the heart of anyone searching for a deeper understanding of God’s design and purpose for His saints on earth today. I highly recommend Ekklesia Rising.” – Richard C. Durfield, PhD., M.Div., M.A.T., B.A.
“Ekklesia Rising is not just revelatory, it is revolutionary. The anointing on this book is destined to unleash seismic shifts, even in your own life. But you will become strong, victorious, and free.” – Jon and Jolene Hamill, Lamplighter Ministries
“Ekklesia Rising is a paradigm-shifting book! A must read for all Houses of Prayer, Pastors and Church Leaders who want a greater revelation of the nature and authority of Christ in transforming culture and cities.” – Greg Simas, Senior Pastor, Convergence House of Prayer
“Honestly, I believe this book is a watershed that will mark you for life. Ekklesia Rising is one of the best books on this subject I’ve ever read. Biblically sound, with great historic references, this is a must read that scholars and laymen alike will heartily sink their teeth into.” – William Ford III, author of Created For Influence, Director of Marketplace Leadership at CFNI