There’s a letter in the Bible that is addressed “To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” (1 Peter 1:1.) Many preachers say that it is written to churches in those places. However, the word church isn’t mentioned in this verse.
When we use the word “church,” people picture either a Christian building, a Christian organization, or a Christian meeting centered around a Bible lecture. To assume that those scattered exiles looked and acted like what we call “church” is a bold assumption not based on that Bible verse.
When exiles build buildings, start organizations, and have comfortable, weekly lecture meetings, they usually cease to be true exiles and begin to embrace the culture around them. They become immigrants instead of exiles. Then their children and grandchildren begin to love the world of their new country more than the homeland of their old country. True exiles resist institutionalizing their life in their new country, because their heart still resides in and longs for their old country.
The Greek word that the New Testament uses to describe gatherings of Christian exiles is “ekklesia” which is probably best translated as “assembly.” It was also the proper name of the interactive governing body of an ancient Greek city-state where any citizen was free to openly speak out in the gathering.
Ekklesia didn’t look like our present-day concept of church. It looked more like what Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14:26. Jesus gave the size requirement as “Where two or three are gathered together in My name . . .”
When separated from a sense of awe, disobedient to the conscience, and influenced by pride, the human heart hardens. Experiential Christianity warms the heart, resuscitates it, and fills it with spiritual life. Institutional Christianity too often puts up a DNR sign.
Jesus can take us
By the heart
And guide us