Over in the lefthand column you'll see a link to Skip Moen's Thirty Days of The Hebrew Worldview. If you haven't yet signed up to get the 30 daily emails, I highly recommend it. In fact, I've enjoyed the journey so much, I'm axing my reflection portion this week to make room for all of Day 27 titled The Event of Church.
Lots of people are rethinking church these days, including me. And, of course, that's a good thing and a bad thing. It's good if we can better live out God's intent for the church. It's a bad thing if we miss it. I'm troubled, for instance, to learn that some seminaries are no longer making Hebrew a requirement. In my opinion, that's a serious problem.
So enjoy. And yes, I know this particular entry (Day 27) sort of leaves you hanging at the end. I've done this on purpose. If you want Day 28, you'll have to sign up!
The Event of Church
Excerpted from 30 Days to a Hebrew Worldview by Skip Moen
Something's missing. That seems to be the general consensus of a large number of those who attend church regularly. We're not quite sure what it is, but we know that our expectations are often greater than the actual delivery. We want that mysterious something - desperately - and so we travel from congregation to congregation, searching, hoping, waiting for the final spiritual enlightenment that will tell us, "You're home." What is most discouraging in this quest is the picture painted of the early church in the book of Acts. It seems more vibrant, more filled with the Spirit, more apostolic. Miracles accompany its proclamation. Power and deep humility attend its leaders. "Why can't we have that?" "What's wrong with us?"
When people don't know what to do, they do what they know. Like good Christians, we go back to the planning table and come up with another program, another series of sermons or another revival meeting. We see change, but it doesn't last. And back we go again. Maybe there is another way.
We could start by noticing some important connections in the words. First, the Greek word here is ekklesia. You undoubtedly know that. But did you know that the word ekklesia is never used in the gospels (except in Matthew 16:18 and 18:17). You might think that this only means that Jesus and the disciples used the word "synagogue," but you would be wrong. The only place where the early Christians used the word synagoge (which is also a Greek term) is in James 2:2. Now, this should make us pause. If Jesus doesn't use the word ekklesia, and the disciples do not use the word synagoge, then how are we supposed to understand what the church is?
Let's add two more crucial facts. The Old Testament uses two different words for the religious gathering of God. They are almost interchangeable - almost, but not quite. The first is qahal. This word means "assembly" and is used for nearly any kind of gathering, even gatherings in rebellion against God. However, in connection with Israel, it is especially the assembly for religious purposes such as the giving of the Law (see Deuteronomy 9:10). There is another Hebrew word, 'edah, which also generally means "assembly" and is often translated "congregation." But, while qahal can be translated by both Greek words, ekklesia and synagoge, 'edah is never translated as ekklesia. Only synagoge translates both qahal and 'edah. That means that ekklesia can be an assembly, but it can never be a congregation (in Hebrew). Only a synagoge can be both an assembly and a congregation.
I know that this seems confusing, but hang in there. Something's happening, and you don't want to miss it. There is a clue here that the modern church lost along the way.
Hebrew culture used qahal for a very important concept: gathering to accept the covenant. Qahal is a word that carries the idea of calling by appointment to a particular purpose of God. This is an event, not a place! It is focused on God's purpose, not our participation. However, when it comes to "congregation," the word is almost always 'edah. 123 times this word is found in the Torah. It is related to the verb "to appoint." It is all about the unity of those appointed, not about the individuals gathered. It is not bound to a special place or time. It is always about a special people appointed as one unified whole before God.
Isn't it interesting that ekklesia, the word that we usually take to mean "the church" is never connected to this Hebrew idea of perfect unity in appointment and purpose? Something's happening. Can you feel it? [and tomorrow, we look a little deeper].