The Called Together
Years ago, a singing group from Freed-Hardeman offered to do a free concert for us. Great! The only problem was they did both an a cappella religious program and a Top-40 secular (a.k.a. “rock-n-roll”) program, WHERE we going to have the concert? We couldn’t just have it in the church building. You can’t “rock out” in the church! So, we went down the road, rented a hall, and had a great night as Phoenix Flight 3 blew the roof off the joint (in a Christian way, of course). We knew that the church is not the building, but you can’t do that sort of thing in church. We also knew “church” comes from a Greek word (ekklesia) which means “called out.” We are to live as those “called out” from the world and who live different lives because we are a peculiar people (1 Pet. 2:9, KJV). Some, of course, are more peculiar than others. Well, let me “call out,” or at least tweak, that well-worn definition at bit. The word ekklesia in its New Testament context really means more “the called together.” It is “an assembly” or “a gathering.”
In Ephesians 19, there was a riot in Ephesus because Paul’s preaching cut into the revenue of the artisans making silver souvenir figurines of the pagan goddess Artemis. This protest “assembly” got-out-of-control until a city official stepped in. The word Luke uses for “assembly” is ekklesia, the word for “church.” In the same way, Stephen uses ekklesia to describe the children of Israel as they assembled before Moses as he promised the coming a prophet like him (Acts 7:38).
What’s the point? Just this: you can’t be the church without being in an assembly. You can’t be the “called out” without being the “called together.” Too much of what it means to live as a Christian presupposes a life that is lived together in a one-another relationship with other called-together people. The Bible commands us to love one another, encourage one another, be patient with one another, teach one another, live in harmony with one another, honor one another, he humble with one another, and on and on it goes. There are thirty or so different commands that we cannot live out unless we have a church… unless we are a church.
We are the called-out. But we are also the called-together. We are God’s people called to live for God and in relationship with others as family because we need the strength and encouragement of others to live the way that God called us to live.