Have Church While Cooking Your Sunday Roast

The digital age is great, but has it taken over? In this blog, I discuss whether it’s a positive thing for the Church and Christian organisations to go digital.

So, I attended the Premier Digital Conference on Saturday 3rd November in London. For those of you who are not familiar with this event, it’s an event to help the Christian community take advantage of all the opportunities brought about by our digital age. Their aim is to ‘inspire with what is possible, equip with new ideas and skills and connect you with people and organisations that can help you achieve your aims’.

As you can imagine, as a virtual ministry assistant, this was an amazing event for me, and it proved to be just that…….

To me, this event really brought to question, whether Churches, and Christian businesses were now becoming in tune with the digital age.

Why do Christian organisations, more specifically, Churches, find it so difficult to move with the times and become more digital / virtual?

Is it because Christianity is all about community, communication, being present with one another?

In today’s age, we now have Church apps where you can download your Church sermon, or Church newsletter; Bible verses posted on Facebook or Instagram, view Church sermons from YouTube while on the go. We have so many online Churches. A lot of Churches aspire to get their Church online. So, do less people now physically attend Church now that there are so many online Churches? You could now literally have Church while cooking your Sunday roast! Will it eventually get to a point where there will be no physical Churches, and everyone will be at home in their families, or worse, on their own listening to their Church sermon online?

 Of course, the flip side of this is that tens of thousands of people can easily hear the word of God. People who may not have usually attended Church can just tune in to hear what it’s all about. People who are house bound can experience Church in their homes.

As a virtual assistant, I’m all for the digital age. Most of my work and interactions with Churches, pastors, Church leaders are done digitally, and it works well. But it is very slow to catch on. In times of such great change, it is important to take the positives of the digital age. We can reach so many people in different cities, countries and even continents. We can work and bring together a vast amount of different ideas from different cultures and generations.

Nevertheless, we must not lose our human connections. We must not forget what Christianity is about. Loving your neighbour, helping and supporting each other and working together.

As a Christian community, we must be known to not only love Jesus Christ, but to also love one another, and to live in fellowship with one another. When the world sees this, our light will ‘shine before others, that they may see… our good deeds and glorify… our Father in heaven’. (Matthew 5:16)

 We need to find a happy medium where we have an option to connect virtually and digitally, but also not loose touch of our human contact.

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Moving Into 2019: Through the Window of Their Witness

I remember around this time last year scurrying about the library in Trinity College Dublin attempting to finish an essay. Hours of reading, drafting, editing and perfecting left me worn out. What was all my energy put into? An essay on the adaptation of Marxist-Leninist thinking in the domestic policy of Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution (I know it sounds riveting!). Although history and geopolitics is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is part of the grand tapestry of history in which we are apart of. Further, it is overseen by the Creator of all things.

Thinking back on that essay has made me concerned for my brothers and sisters in the country of China. In researching the 1960s and 1970s for the essay, I discovered the horrors that Christians encountered. Further, it seems if history is repeating itself again in China. Whatever the circumstances and trials our brothers and sisters in China face, to the world they are a window through which others can witness the reality of Christ.

That Was Then

Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976 made it his aim to roll Communism into all areas of Chinese life. Michael Lynch in his book Origins and development of authoritarian and single-party states notes how Mao saw religion as utter poison, even making the comparison of Christian missionaries in China to Nazis in Europe. In his leadership, Mao wanted to dominate the political sphere and weed out Christianity along with all other religions. Fenggang Yang, a prominent scholar on religion in China, noted that Mao set out in the Cultural Revolution to eradicate religion from China through a form of militant atheism. Religion was the stumbling block to Mao achieving total dictatorial power.

During these years, outward expressions of religion were banned, religious rituals were prohibited, churches were torn down and ransacked. Followers of Christ were tortured, persecuted and killed for their faith. Mao’s indoctrinated Red Guards aimed to permanently delete Christianity from Chinese daily life. Ironically, Mao ended up creating a religion around himself – Maoism. Mao, through propaganda, presented himself to the Chinese peasantry as a god. His little Red Book replaced the Bibles that were burned. His pictures were to take the place of the symbol of the cross. All aspects of life were infiltrated by Maoism. In all his endeavours, Mao sought to transform every aspect of the individual’s life in China. Frank Dikotter, a Dutch historian, notes that Mao only really managed to exact outward compliance. Faith moved into the shadows at this time, but within those shadows it grew exponentially. The Protestant denomination from estimates grew from 0.8 million in 1956 to 3 million in 1982. Climbing to 16 million in 2009.

Although Mao sought the riddance of Christianity in China by bringing worship to himself, he was unsuccessful as the Christian witness within China persevered and experienced huge growth. This can only be seen as the gracious and merciful act of God, bringing people to a knowledge of him as the gospel went across China during those years of persecution. Consequently, we might be prone to think everything is fine and dandy in China today. Even with the Reform and Open Door Policy of premier Deng Xiaoping in the 70s and 80s persecution of Christians in China continues. Moreover, things are intensifying under the presidency of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping.

This is Now

China is the world’s second largest economy and in years to come is predicted to overtake the US. With globalisation, China’s single-party police state is attempting to find means of dealing with the outside world politically and geographically. Historically, China has not dealt well with its surrounding nations, maintaining a tendency to look inward and grapple at self-sufficiency. Maybe greater openness has helped transform China though?

Modern day China appears to have greater accountability structures than those that existed under Mao – society is a project aiming for harmonious and prosperous living under party rule. Although we have seen greater openness from China since the tyrant Mao died, officials in China continue to crackdown on whomever they will. The CCP is permitted to go beyond the law without any accountability. This has created an environment of fear, uncertainty and frustration from the political to the economic to  the societal spheres. While this abuse of power is punctuated by human rights violations.

Diana Chandler addresses how 2018 has been a difficult year for Christians in China – has there been a return to Mao era persecution? Most definitely. For example, most of us have heard of the hunting down and arresting of members of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan Province. The pastors and elders of this church wrote ‘we will not bend, even it means jail, even it means death. We will continue to preserve our faith’. Police raids have escalated, crosses have been removed, people have been blocked from entering churches, worship has been shut down and Christians have been harassed. Those arrested from Early Rain reported being beaten, tortured and denied food. These Christians were dragged, stepped on, bound with chains for their faith.

President Xi Jinping will deny all these corrupt human rights violations. Unlike Mao, Xi does not want to ‘eradicate religion’ rather he desires to Sinicise it. He wants to bring the Christian religion in line with the CCP’s ideology. This is not feasible though as Christianity is diametrically opposed to a worldview system that bases itself in atheistic philosophy.

Xi knows that Christianity is a threat to CCP power, as it opposes everything the tyrannical and dictatorial CCP stands for. We, as the international community, need to stand for the religious freedom that Chinese Christians should be guaranteed. Any abuse of people made in the image of God in any shape or form is unacceptable and loathsome.  However, even in the midst of their persecution they are witnesses.

Those Who Witness

Secular author Ian Johnston noted how the Cultural Revolution showed how oppression encouraged real faith; the prayer for the church in China is that God would continue to grow his kingdom amidst persecution from the Chinese Communist Party and their cult like leader Xi Jinping. May the God of all comfort use the trials and difficulties of our brothers and sisters in China to bear witness to all around the world. Ultimately that they may believe in Jesus and his redemption of a sinful humanity.

The gospel of John begins by communicating how John the Baptist “came as a witness… that all might believe through him” (v.7). John the Baptist was the first among a great “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) to testify to the truth of Jesus’s life. This cloud has swelled to millions of Christians in recent decades in China. Each witness having seen Christ through the witness of one another. Many in this cloud have lost their lives in China, but through this we hope that thousands more will join the cloud of witnesses who testify to the Son. The glorious Son who came, full of grace and truth.

The Son of God?

The Son of God?

As Christians we always talk about Jesus being the “Son of God” but I don’t think that we do a good job of helping others understand what this means, in fact, I have known many Christians who struggle to articulate the truth that Jesus is the “Son of God”.  For this reason, I want to take a moment and clarify this concept in order to add a layer of depth to our faith.  I will do so very quickly so as not to complicate an already difficult topic.

The short and sweet of it is this:  The phrase “Son of God” or “God’s One and Only Son” is not referring to Jesus being a child of God as a result of his sexual interaction with a spiritual female in heaven.  It is important to know that our Mormon friends believe this to be case, which is different from Evangelical Christianity and its belief that Jesus Christ is completely equal with the Father and that they have always existed together as One.  Jesus may have (certainly was) been born on earth from a human woman, but he was never born in heaven–He just was.  The truth is that it means Jesus is the perfect mirror reflection of God the Father.  When we see Jesus we see God the Father and we see the Holy Spirit.  This is the relationship that is described.  The verse that does the best job in clarifying the topic is this:

Hebrews 1:3 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

When you read the Gospel of John it becomes very evident that the Jews, who stated that they believed in God the Father, truly did not believe in the One true God because they did not believe that Jesus was equal with Him.  When they saw Jesus they did not see God; they saw only a man (The Son of Man).  But those who believe in the One true God see the Father when they see Jesus.

We see the conflict in John 10:31-33, which reads:

Again the Jews picked up rocks to stone Him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. Which of these works are you stoning Me for?” “We aren’t stoning You for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because You—being a man—make Yourself God.”

What they refused to believe was that they were looking at the image of Father God when they looked upon the person of Jesus of Christ.  It would have been OK for Jesus to claim to be a prophet, or even a perfect human being perhaps, but not God in Flesh.  Or some religions are OK if you believe that Jesus is literally a son of God,  one of many gods, but not equal with God in every way.

Where did the word “Church” come from?

At the risk of sounding like one of those zealots, it is time that we begin to openly draw a distinction between our Lord’s Ecclesia and Constantine’s Church. All of us that are serious about our relationship with our Father and our walk of faith have recited, or at the very least heard it recited, the statement Jesus spoke to Simon Peter: “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”.  When we read the word “church” in this passage, we immediately begin to visualize a building or a group of buildings–because that is how we’ve come to understand “church” as we know it–and equate that to what Jesus said as written in the quoted passage. Or perhaps we envision a group of people that congregate in a building on Sundays or some other day during the week.

For the last 406 years, most of the Christian world has been conditioned by the teachings of the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible. For the most part, this translation has served a very important role in shaping the ideals and beliefs of people and nations around the world. For the purposes of this article, I want to address a specific point of conflict with the way the KJV text translated a particular word from its original use. That point is this: “how did the word ‘ecclesia’ get replaced with the word ‘church’”? The answer to this question will no doubt offend some and open the eyes of others. Nonetheless, it is a question that anyone who is serious about their walk of faith should consider.

One of the other agendas of the KJV translators was the change of the word “ecclesia” to the word “church”.

During the creation of the KJV one of the mandates of King James I of England to his team of translators was that they were to ensure that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology (that is, simply put, the doctrinal beliefs, architecture, and adornment) and reflect the Episcopal (Bishop’s oversight) structure of the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy. If this was the only instruction to the translators, it alone would have been enough to call into question the purity of their finished work, or at the very least, it would lead to the inevitable concern about a hidden agenda regarding the final work. But this was not the only coercion. One of the other agendas of the translators was the change of the word “ecclesia” to the word “church”. I’ll deal with “ecclesia” later in this article. For now, let’s focus our attention on the word substituted in the place of “ecclesia”.

“Church” was originally used by Emperor Constantine when he made Christianity the state religion of Rome around 310 A.D. Thus the word “church” became the standard of assembly for the Christian religion, and has continued to be used this way ever since. By the time of the creation of the KJV, the word church presented itself as a satisfactory pawn for King James to perpetuate the superiority of the English monarchy over the Kingdom government of the Body of Christ.

Throughout the KJV translation, the word “church” was substituted for the Latin word “ecclesia”. These two words do not mean the same thing, neither do they derive from a common word; in fact, they convey two significantly different understandings. In short, the translators of the KJV deliberately altered the meaning of critical passages of scripture to divert the reader’s and believer’s understanding as it pertains to who Jesus declared them to be, and what our position in the Kingdom of Heaven truly is.

The word “church” was substituted 112 times for the word “ecclesia”

The word “church” was substituted 112 times for the word “ecclesia”. There are three other translations of the same word into the word “assembly”. One could easily become suspicious as to why these three instances were not also translated “church”. Given that the words do not mean the same thing, why would the translators make such an obvious alteration to the “Holy Scriptures”? The exact answer cannot be definitively concluded, but it is not hard to arrive at a reasonable conjecture of a deliberate agenda to alter our understanding of our Kingdom position relative to the state’s desire to maintain control of the Christian religion.

So what does the word “church” really mean? In the earlier Greek, it was pronounced “kuriakos” or “kuriakon.” The meaning of ” kuriakos ” is understood by its root, ” kuriakos,” which means “lord.” Thus, “kuriakos” (i.e.,”church”) means “pertaining to the lord.” It refers to something that pertains to or belongs to, a lord. (Note the usage of the lowercase letter “L” here…this particular usage refers to someone having power, authority, or influence over someone, and generally refers to someone in the position of a master or ruler in an established monarchy.) The Greek “kuriakos” eventually came to be used in Old English form as “cirice” (kee-ree-ke), then “churche” (kerke), and eventually “church” in its traditional pronunciation. Church from its original Old English meaning referred to a public place of worship.

       Paul and Silas was not building churches they were establishing the Ecclesia!

Now let’s look at the word “ecclesia”. Ecclesia [from medieval Latin and Greek, meaning “summoned” or “called out”] means “a regularly convoked assembly”, especially the general assembly of Athenians. It was the name given to the governmental assembly of the city of Athens, duly convoked by proper officers and possessing all political power including even juridical functions. Consider Acts 17:1-7, and in particular verse 7: “Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus”. We can see here that what Paul and Silas were doing was inciting insurrection among all those that would hear and believe their preaching. They were not trying to change Judaism, they were establishing the ecclesia.

The Ecclesia is NOT the “church”. This is something that believers have been told since the days of Constantine, in order to exercise control over us and to keep us from understanding the true identity of our dominion. We, the Ecclesia, are the governing body of our Lord in the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, in this season, Holy Spirit is once again raising up voices to give understanding to the Ecclesia…that we are not “the church” as we have been told. He is revealing to us that we must come out of this Constantinian religious system and begin to embrace our true sonship, our inheritance, and our authority as heirs of righteousness and heirs of promise.

In this season, those who are hungry for the truth of our identity will begin to hear the sound of the call to the Ecclesia. I encourage you to pursue that sound as it will lead you to its source: Holy Spirit! There you will find the truth of who you were created to be. There you will find true worship of your Father in heaven. There you will find your place in the Godhead. Don’t be afraid of what you begin to hear. Holy Spirit will not allow you to be misled or seduced. He will guide you into ALL Truth.

BLESSINGS!

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