The Church

December 1, 2019


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A New Covenant 2019

Church

I am thankful for the church. 

It is Thanksgivings weekend. We are supposed to turn our hearts to the things we are thankful for. One of those things, for me, is the church.

I am thankful for the church.

But what do I mean… I am thankful for the church?

What you think I mean and what I actually mean, may, or may not, be the same thing.

Take a moment. Answer, to yourself. Formulate what you think I mean, inside your head. I am thankful for the church?

Let’s see if you are right.

I suspect there more than a dozen answers to what I mean by…

I am thankful for the church.

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1) The Building

Perhaps, I am thankful for our building. Lots of times when people use the word “church” they are talking about the building.

Gary might say, “I am going to work on the church. I have a lot of lights yet to change to LED.”

Jolene might say, “I’m going to the church to send out the bulletin.”

Lyn might say, “I’m going to go to the church a sew on a prayer quilt.”

They would mean this building. When I say I am thankful for the church, perhaps I am talking about our building. I am thankful for our building. It was built in the late 1960s.  It has been amazingly functional for all these years. 

--2,600, or so, Sunday worship services!

--I think of all the events we have done… Senior Banquets, Thanksgiving dinners, All the games I have played on Thursday night.

--I thought the other day, as Gary was repairing the upper walkway. I wonder how many times I have crossed that walkway? 10 times a day, minimum, everyday for 32 years… 116,800 times… a low estimate. I am thankful I never fell through. 

I am thankful for the building. Perhaps, that is what I meant. (Tanya would say no. She knows I use the word “building” not church.) 

But I am thankful for the church building. 

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2) The Assembly 

You may know, that I know, the English word “church” is the translation of the Greek word ekklesia. In ancient Greece, the democratic assembly of all the full citizens gathered to make a decision, it was called the ekklesia; The Assembly was only regarded as existing when it was actually together; assembled. The word ekklesia is the assembly.

Notice this in Ephesus when Paul cause a ruckus.

Acts 19:32, 39 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together… But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 

Assembly; ekklesia; church. 

Is that what I am thankful for, like…

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church

1 Corinthians 14:23-26 If, therefore, the whole church comes together… When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 

Certainly, I am thankful for the assembly. Our time together is precious. When we sing and read scripture and preach and teach and commune and give and share and eat … I am thankful for being built up as The Assembly!

Our assembly time when we are together is something to be thankful for!  

I am thankful for the church, our assembly. 

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3) The Called Out

If you doknow, that I know, the word ekklesia, then you may also know that I know the word ekklesia means “Called Out.” Ek is out. Klesia is call or speak. Ek klesia… the out-called.

You may assume that I am thankful like Paul was in…

1 Corinthians 1:1-2 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church (the out called) of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified (the set apart) in Christ Jesus, called (klesia) to be saints… 

I do know the word ekklesia. I am thankful for being out-called. There should be a distinction between us and the world. We are called to be saints. There is a sense that we different than the world. We have a calling to be church. We all should feel that we have been reached by God to be his out-called church. 

I am thankful for the church; the out-called. 

Is this what I mean… unlikely, because I know the early church quickly changed the word ekklesia to mean something more specific. 

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In the New Testament a common usage for the word church is…

4) The local gathering of Christians in a place

1 Thessalonians 1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians 

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae

Romans 16:5 Greet also the church in their house

This would be synonymous with the Los Alamos Church of Christ. We are the church of Christ that meets in Los Alamos. It is used like congregation. 

Yes, I am thankful for this congregation. Our congregation is precious.  It has changed over the years in composition. It has changed in character. It has grown in love for each other. We have congregation we can be grateful for! A lot of that thanks goes to our elders, who have been consistent for years.  

I am very thankful for the church; the congregation.

But could I mean more? (I just getting started.)

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5) All Christians in a location

Acts 8:1And Saul approved of Stephen’s execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem.

Galatians 1:2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia

1 Corinthians 16:19The churches of Asia send you greetings.

You could speak of the churches in Los Alamos, in New Mexico or in China. All those Christians who are in one location could be called the church. There are dozens of churches in Los Alamos. There are lots of believers in our town. 

I am thankful for all the churches here in Los Alamos.

But let’s keep going. 

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6) My Christian Heritage

Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of Godviolently and tried to destroy it. 

1 Corinthians 10:31-32 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. 

My heritage is in the Restoration Movement. The Restoration movement of churches began in the early 1800’s. It was for a long time the fastest growing religious group in the country. It was an ecumenical movement of being united by following Scripture. It was, and I hope will continue to be, a good thing

Yes, I am thankful for the heritage I have in the church. My grandfather was a farmer/preacher. He preached at the Mt. Zion Church of Christ in London, Kentucky. The first sermon I ever got paid to preach was at that congregation. This was in 1974. An old man came up to me after the sermon, “I remember your grandfather when he preached here.” That was precious to me. 

You may have a different religious heritage, to be thankful for. 

I am thankful for the church, my heritage. 

But it may be bigger than that.  

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7) The universal, across time, everyone who has or every will be a believer. 

Ephesians 3:10-11 …so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 

Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 

Hebrews 12:23 and to the assembly (ekklesia) of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

I am thankful for all those whom I will spend eternity. 

I am thankful for the CHURCH; universal.

Perhaps, I have a totally different line of thought in mind, when I say I am thankful for the Church.

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The last two months we have been focusing on different ways to view our relationship in the New Covenant…

8) Family…

I am thankful for the church; the family of God. Jesus taught us to call God, Father. We bring our requests to God, just as a kid asks stuff of their fathers, we know our Father loves us. We are siblings. Jesus is our brother. We are the Family of God. I am thankful for the church; the family of God. 

9) Servant… 

I am thankful for the service of the church. We are servants. Jesus is LORD. We ask, what? We Listen. We do. We are servants pleasing our master. I am thankful that we are the church, his servants!

10) Kingdom… 

The church is the kingdom of God. We are out-called to advance against evil. Jesus rules at the right hand of God! He leads us in preaching the Gospel. He moves us to heal the sick. Minister to the hurting. Restore the earth! We are the army of God.

I am thankful for the church, the army of God!

11) Bride… 

Christ is our fiancé. Christ is preparing us for the marriage feast. We are being made pure and holy and radiant and beautiful for our husband.

I am thankful to be the church; the bride of Christ! 

12) Body… 

I am amazingly thankful for all the pieces-parts which make up the body of Christ. I am important; regardless of my function. I am cherished by the body. We work to grow together in love. We stay connected to Christ, the head.

I am thankful for the church; the body of Christ!

13) Temple… 

Certainly, I am thankful to be the temple of God. I am a block filled with the Spirit. My block connects to all your blocks to form the congo-temple.  We become a place to proclaim His excellencies! We are a place to connect to God. We are the church the place of worship.

I am thankful for the church; the Temple of God! 

I am thankful for all those ways of viewing who we are. 

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Perhaps, when I say I am thankful for the church, I mean what Jesus meant…

Matthew 16:16-18 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

I am thankful for what Jesus built! I am thankful for his church which has prevailed against the powers of hell for two millennia.  I am thankful to be a part of His church which will expand until all his enemies are conquered! Then, the church; local, will merge with the church; universal, to be the church; eternal! 

I am thankful for the church. 


Tim Stidham

December 1, 2019

Los Alamos Church of Christ