In our most recent Main Blog: 21st Century Reformation, we discussed the impact of the information age on hierarchy and institutional authority structures.  Our conclusion is that due to the explosion of information and new ways to access it, we are living in an era of the empowerment of the individual, resulting in institutions of all kinds being threatened.  What does this mean for the church of Jesus Christ or institutional religion in general?  Church redefined?

Threatened Institution

Before we can even attempt to answer this, it is important to properly frame the question.  For example, what if the church was never intended to be an institution?  If the answer to this fundamental question is no, that changes everything when we examine the impact of the explosion of information and empowerment of the individual on the church and institutional religion.

A common misconception is that the word “church” comes from the Greek word “ecclesia”.  The truth is that the word “ecclesia” is better translated as “called out ones or assembly”.  It was used to describe those who were “called out” to assemble as a unique group or “civil body politic”.  The term is used in the New Testament 115 times and is intended to communicate that Christians were “called out” of the Roman culture of the day as a unique group of people that followed a king other than Caesar (Jesus).  For example, hear how Paul and Silas were described in Acts 17:

“But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: ‘These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.’ ” Acts 17: 6-7

This was a radical calling out that had nothing to do with Paul and Silas calling people to attend a meeting of Christians in an institutional building.  It was a declaration of a different culture, aligned to another king.  Hence the violent response here and elsewhere.  It was only during the early translation of the bible into the King James version in the 16th century that the word “ecclesia” was translated as “church”.  Interestingly this occurred at a time when the church institutional hierarchy was well established.

So to tie all of this together, the explosion of access to information in the 21st century does not threaten the true “ecclesia” but in fact empowers it.  Where the church of Jesus Christ is functioning as an institutional hierarchy, it is threatened by the reformation that is occurring in the 21st century (along with other institutional religions).  This begins to explain the rapid decline in membership within major religious organizations.  Check out this article from a church leadership publication.

The true ecclesia is alive and well and thriving in the exciting times we are living in.  At Back to Eden Group we are excited about the times we are living in and in being part of this reformation.

John and Katherine Matthews

B2E Group Directors

Mark 4:9

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Showing 7 comments
  • Jacob
    Reply

    Great Article! It is amazing to see what is happening. To watch the “clergy” struggle to maintain control of their “sheep”. It’s rather sad and disgusting at the same time to watch them grapple for what was once; the “glory days” of the church. I truly am excited for what God is doing in the true ecclesia!

  • Mary Tucci
    Reply

    I thank God for his faithfulness outside in the real world outside of the box outside of the institutional walls in the market places where Jesus once walked he touched the unloveable the ones outside the walls of the building on the hillside in a fishing boat the tax collecter the harlot oh my he was a rebel for his fathers cause I say let go and let God out with the old and in with the new wine in new wineskins come on and lets go lets get this party started true celebration where all walk together embracing one another and encouraging one another for one soul purpose to lift up and exalt the true king which is not man its Christ.
    I have to say I love the picturd of the money wrecking ball hitting the building we are the church inside us the hope of glory he truly rocks hes rocking foundations that are not being built on him alone.
    Thanks for sharing a thought provoking article it got me stirred up lol bless you both and all who join in each person is important and needed in the body of Christ.

    • Back 2 Eden
      Reply

      Thanks for your comments Mary. Please forward the link to the blog to your friends (either on email on by tagging on FB). Let’s get the word out!

  • James
    Reply

    It’s funny how often I am asked by Christians what Church I attend. My remarks vary depending on whose asking. Although I have to continual speak into the fact that relationship, authentic, real, living relationship with people in context of the living God is community and church. It’s wild how many people are not willing to do life with God, but rather attend a meeting with God, then go on their way.

    I think some of the wonderful pieces of information age, is we can be connected and communicate over like ideas. Seth Godin calls this Tribes and He speaks of permission marketing. Permission marketing is people have to actually earn the right to be heard, by telling authentic stories, not interrupting people (commercials). This idea of permission marketing (authentic story telling) and tribe I think is occurring in churches. We don’t need an institutional building when we are learning to connect and value individuals in the market, life, sports, school, and are building a real, authentic, vibrant body outside of it. We are earning permission by being authentic and we are building a healthy body model were people can develop godly covenants. Not unequal covenants were everyone comes to serve and be served by a “chosen leader.”

  • Mary Tucci
    Reply

    Thank you so much James what an encouraging word refreshing thought provoking challenging and filled with hope..

  • Polly Fuentes
    Reply

    What type of leaders might we need in the 21st century to establish the Church on the frontiers of business, media and entertainment, and education—in the pursuit of explosive growth as was done in the first century? God is sovereign, now, just as He was then. However, if one takes even a peremptory look at the training being provided to the vast majority of those entering the ministry today, it raises some challenging issues with regard to the role such individuals may need to play in the Church of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.

  • Back 2 Eden
    Reply

    Hi Polly. Welcome to our blog. Great thinking and question. What if our institutional Christianity mindset is an obstacle to us experiencing another wave of explosive growth today? After all, was it not the institutional religion of the first century that originally opposed the Way?

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