62 Days: Going Back to Ekklesia

And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

-Acts 5:11 (ESV)

Acts 5:11 is the first time that Luke uses the word “ekklesia” to describe the community of disciples. Christians might be surprised to learn that the word “ekklesia” does not literally mean “church.” Biblical Greek has no word equivalent to our English word “church.” The word “ekklesia” translates the Biblical Hebrew word “Kahal.” Kahal means “assembly,” “congregation,” or “community.” The word ekklesia is interchangeable with “synagogue,” and it appears hundreds of times in the Greek version of the Tanach (Old Testament) to describe the congregation of the people of Israel.

from Torah Club, Volume 6: Chronicles of the Apostles
Torah Portion Vayera (“And he appeared”) (pg 97)
Commentary on Acts 4:32-5:42
Produced by First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

What?

Of course, I’ve heard that before, but maybe some of you reading this haven’t. My understanding of the word “ekklesia” is that it can be any collection of people who have gathered for a common purpose. It can as easily be a group of people who have gathered together for a riot or a lynch mob as to worship the God of Israel. A rather startling revelation for anyone who thought that “ekklesia” was a brand new word, something revolutionary for its time, the invention of the Christian church. (Only the Darby Bible Translation, World English Bible, and Young’s Literal Translation render “ekklesia” as “assembly” in Acts 5:11 according to Biblos.com. The other Bibles use the translation “church.”) D. Thomas Lancaster continues his Torah Club commentary on the subject.

By translating the term as “church,” our English Bibles have done us the great disservice of making us think of the church as an entity different, distinct, and outside of Judaism and the Jewish people. The “church” is not a New Testament innovation. When we read the word “church” in our English Bibles, we need to remember that it denotes the assembly of the messianic community within the larger Jewish nation, not something outside of Israel. (pg 97)

So, from Lancaster’s description, we see that the early “Christian church” of the Jewish disciples of Jesus was indeed not some new creation, but a continuation of the Jewish community that they had belonged to since the days when they were first called to follow the Messiah. It was a Jewish community no different from the other communities of the various sects of Judaism that were common in that day.

It almost makes it sound as if Christianity and Judaism are the same thing, but as I previously mentioned, in the modern era, Christians do not practice Judaism.

But our Christian faith was once very much a Judaism, as we see in the early chapters of Acts. I recently talked about this as well, but I’m sure you’re aware that a lot of water has flowed under that particular bridge, and we’ve been taken away from the foundations of the beginning of the Christian faith.

But during the time I’m discussing here, there was no “Christian faith” as we understand the concept. There was just another sect of Judaism that believed it was following the Jewish Messiah. That’s actually not incredibly unusual, as over the long centuries of Jewish history, there have been many would-be Messiahs who have attracted many followers. All those Messiahs and all of those followers have faded away…all except one.

But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

-Acts 5:34-39 (ESV)

For nearly 20 centuries, there were no Jewish followers of Jesus, at least none who retained a Jewish ethnic, cultural, and religious identity and lifestyle. Even today, halakhically Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah are few in number. Many have abandoned their Jewish identities and have joined “the church,” and they are, for the most part, indistinguishable from the Gentile Christians around them. Some are in the synagogues today and quietly worship alongside their Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform brothers in Jewish community. Very few worship in authentic Messianic Jewish communities, mainly because such communities are extremely difficult to establish and maintain. The overwhelming majority of followers of Christ are Gentiles and they worship in the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Christian churches in this nation and around the world.

So I’m looking at trying to connect to a church, an “ekklesia,” although as we saw above, “ekklesia” doesn’t mean “church.” But modern convention says that “church” is the only place I have left to go if I want to be a part of the community of the body of Messiah (they’ll call him “Christ” of course).

If I were to print this blog post out and take it with me to my meeting with the Pastor this Saturday (I had to move the appointment time back one day), I wonder what he’d say? I wonder what the church’s board of directors would say if they read it? What would any of the church members say if they could read this commentary about “the church?” Would they find a kindred spirit in me at all, or only some “religious oddball?”

As far as the nature, meaning, and implication of the word “ekklesia” in relation to Acts 5:11 and the early community of disciples of Jesus, I’m not an “oddball” at all, but there’s 2,000 years of Christian culture to address. The “church” isn’t just the community of Christ in the 21st century, it is the collection of all of the doctrines, theologies, dogmas, and philosophies that have been incorporated into what it is to be a Christian and what Christians understand and believe.

Derek Leman’s recent blog post Congregation Lift: The Principle of Aiming High included the following:

In evangelical Christianity (and I was totally immersed as a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where I got my B.A. in Bible and Theology) I found a principle I came to completely reject. It was the principle of aiming low. In church after church, chapel service after chapel service, the supreme height of Christianity was presented as “getting saved.” Christians lived for getting into heaven. Every sermon had to tell people how to gain access to the place of white clouds and harps. The “born again” experience, interpreted shallowly as “getting in,” was the be-all, end-all, the graduate degree of faith. Whenever deeper subjects came up (discipleship, serious commitment to giving and serving) these were optional add-ons for the few who were called to be more than “saved.”

Church teaching always aimed low. Get them saved. Tell them over and over again. Preach 52 sermons a year that, no matter which Bible text was used, ended up being about afterlife admittance. And this was called “the gospel,” even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the word gospel (euangelion) in the New Testament. The people in the pews were viewed as probably incapable of any higher life with God. So appeals to things like giving, serving, serious pursuit of holiness, were extras to which people would be vaguely invited to discover outside of the weekly 60-minutes for God event.

This makes my “spider-sense tingle” or, put another way, screams “Danger! Danger, Will Robinson” at me. It scares the heck out of me. What am I getting myself into?

Fortunately, Leman goes on to say:

Now, this is not actually Christianity. In my opinion, what goes on in the 60-minutes-for-God event in most church buildings is not Christianity. True Christianity, I would argue, is a beautiful thing. What keeps good people in low-aiming evangelical popular churches? I think it is the fact that small, inner circles of Bible readers in these places all find something deeper than what is presented in the 60-minutes-for God events.

That still makes it sound like finding “true Christianity” is about as simple as locating teeth in the beak of a hen or finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

But I have to start somewhere.

I once employed an Internet meme stating that “One does not simply learn Torah in a church,” and was promptly, though indirectly chastised by none other than Boaz Michael, who along with his wife, does attend a church in a small town in Missouri. Apparently, the “weightier matters of the Torah” are indeed to be found in the church, or at least in some churches.

My point, a point for congregational life, is this: the Bible and the great thinkers and teachers of Judaism and Christianity, aim high, not low.

What does aiming high in congregational worship, teaching, and discussion mean? It means that leaders are educated and expected to have read other opinions and to be familiar with a broad range of ideas. The “what it means to me” approach to Bible teaching is a disaster. It means that the prayers and songs should call to a deep devotion and a wise faith. It means complexities and realities of suffering, of the failure of goodness to produce a pain-free life, of the highest goals of loving sacrificially, should be the core of the teaching. It means people at all levels of learning and practice should be challenged.

I guess I’m just trying to “psych” myself up for this Saturday. I worked up the nerve yesterday to tell my wife about my appointment and she took it pretty well. I looked for any signs of “discomfort” in her facial expression and body language and listened closely to her vocal tones, but everything indicated that she was calm and accepting of my position. So why do I feel like I just pounded another nail in the coffin of whatever shared faith experience we used to have?

It doesn’t help to have just discovered (literally, as I’m writing this) that people in middle age (i.e. “me”) are the “group making the biggest exodus out the back door of their churches,” according to information I read on Michelle Van Loon’s blog. Lovely. As I’m trying to get back in, all of my age-mates and peers are going back out.

Feinberg’s list of things that push older members out the door tags the usual suspects (changing worship styles, lame small groups, politics, communicators in the pulpit instead of pastors), though I believe that some items on her list torque those over 65 differently than they might if a person was in his or her early 40′s. For instance, Boomers developed church services heavy on entertainment and light on organ music and choirs; older Gen X-ers, now in their forties, came of age in an era when worship style wars had already been fought in many corners of Protestantism. For instance, I appreciate some hymns, but prefer thoughtful, organic modern worship music. I have a long history of breaking into highly inappropriate giggles if I visit a church and find my sung worship accompanied by bombastic organ music (and is there any other kind?).

Organ music? Lame small groups? Communicators instead of pastors? Oy!

Van Loon continues:

That said, those in the second half of life simply can’t freestyle their spiritual lives. God calls us to community, though our relationship with that community can and should change as we mature. (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if church leaders were willing to consider how to better facilitate spiritual growth for those in the second half of life?) Illness, the needs of aging parents and travel change our relationship with regular Sunday morning church attendance. Others find what they have to offer others is better received in contexts (non-profits, missions organizations) other than that of their local church.

I can see there’s no going back to the simple concept of “ekklesia” as Luke describes in Acts: the community of disciples who meet, pray, teach, share, and worship. To be part of a community is to meet the community where they are. It would be nice, as Van Loon says, if “church leaders were willing to consider how to better facilitate spiritual growth for those in the second half of life,” but how is the church supposed to meet me where I am, or is that even the point anymore? Who is supposed to be serving who and why does one even go to church?

So though I disagree with Feinberg on one hand, I agree with her on the other. She’s right: those of us who are older are called to mentor those younger than us, and to give ourselves away in generous, selfless service.

I can’t imagine, “oddball” that I am, even getting that far. In fact, I’m still trying to find out why I’m “going back to church.” I don’t really expect or need to “be fed” by the church, but I can hardly imagine they’d trust me to do any feeding, particularly as a “newbie.” I don’t know that I want to do any feeding. Teaching is draining and as a teacher or just a person, I’ve been wrong before, and I don’t want to take others down a wrong path with me. Maybe, I’ll just see if they need their carpets vacuumed once a week and that will be my Christian “mitzvot,” my way of giving back to a community that seems about as familiar to me (especially reading Van Loon’s blog) as the surface of one of Saturn’s moons.

What am I doing anyway?

Edit: I posted this a day early (it was supposed to be tomorrow’s “morning meditation”) because I had something of an epiphany. You’ll see what it’s all about in tomorrow morning’s blog post.

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18 thoughts on “62 Days: Going Back to Ekklesia”

  1. You’ll read more about this in tomorrow’s “morning meditation,” but I just realized (or reaffirmed) that if I have problems with “the church,” I won’t resolve them by treating them (us) like an “alien other.” That’s like complaining about who was elected President when you didn’t even vote. If someone thinks society is “broken,” then they can only help by participating in society and representing what they think it should look like and how it should act. If I have any personal issues with the church, then my only valid moral response is to meet the church where its at and to be who I am within it. After that, we’ll see what God has in mind.

  2. I do miss the community aspect of it all. But that is about all I miss. Today my husband was thrust back into the midst of it all for a few hours at the college we attended. A comment he made had an amazing impact on one man there. It was a whole new concept for him. And this man got it. It excited him. I told my husband that if no one is there to say anything “different”, then they are going to continue to go around on their little hamster wheel. Running, running, running. Reading all the same commentaries, doing all the same stuff. For those of us who grasped different ideas all left.

    I’m interested to see what the ripples look like when you stick that toe of yours back in.
    :)
    Linda

  3. You’ll find out, Linda. Everyone will find out. I write about pretty much everything that happens to me except what I have for breakfast. ;-)

    For those of us who grasped different ideas all left.

    I find myself wondering if that’s always a good idea. I can’t speak for anyone else and obviously, I’ve got “issues” of my own, but maybe if those of us who have “different ideas” in the church leave, all that’s left are the “hamster wheel commentaries” and the pre-processed Bible studies. Who will be there to gently challenge the status quo if we all leave the church?

    I want to be careful and not give the impression that I’m returning to Christian fellowship as some sort of “revolutionary” or “big deal.” I’m just one person with one voice who believes that God did not replace the Jews with “the church.” I believe we are all in God’s love and we’re all in God’s plan. If even one of us who thinks this way is among the brethern, then maybe one other person will listen, and then there’ll be two.

    We still serve One God, and we all pray in the name of one Christ.

  4. You may not have been able to tell this from the blog post you referenced above, but I am a Jewish believer. Midlifers in the church present complicated issues, to be sure – but I’ve found it is even more complex trying to maintain Jewish identity in a Gentile church context. (Here’s a link to something I wrote about this issue a few months ago: http://michellevanloon.com/2012/06/22/piper-israel-and-me/)

    It’s a good thing you’ve embraced being an “oddball”. :) Blessings on your upcoming meeting.

  5. Thanks, Michelle. Actually, I did know you’re a Jewish believer. I even commented on the blog post you referenced in your link. I know other Jews who are believers and my wife, though not a believer, is Jewish, so I have a certain awareness of what you’re talking about. In fact, being intermarried is part of the “complexity” involved in my returning to Christian fellowship. I can only imagine the questions that will come up when some folks find out I have a Jewish wife.

    I really appreciate your visiting and commenting my blog. Thanks again. :-)

  6. Thank you for reminding me that you’d commented on that post! (*slightly embarrassed moment*)

    May God give you a ready answer for those questions. :)

  7. No worries, Michelle. My middle-age memory is pretty leaky (my wife tells me this often…when she can remember.) ;-)

    My experience with God is that He gives me more “good questions” than answers but sometimes a good question is better. Pursuing the answer leads down many interesting rabbit and hobbit holes and after all, a life of faith is one of adventure.

  8. I don’t know what Boaz Michael had in mind regarding learning Torah in a church environment, or even if you actually understood what he might have meant, but I’m going to disagree and to decry a highly regrettable confusion that exists commonly on the subject. It regards the definition of Torah, and therefore becomes the critical turning point of this issue. I’ll begin with the counter-assertion that it is truly impossible to learn Torah within a Christian church environment. The most that one may learn, in the best cases where supercession had been repudiated and love for Jews and Israel abounds, is some number of indirect derivations of Torah principles. Perhaps one may learn some developmental history about Torah in an academic sense; and perhaps one may learn about Jewish/biblical festivals (though really from an outsider’s perspective). But Torah as such simply is not taught in these environments. Those who believe otherwise only reveal that they themselves do not know what Torah is or how to recognize it.

    Now, in these best of cases, it may be quite sufficient for non-Jews to learn this shadow of Torah. After all, that is essentially what was prescribed for them in Acts 15:21. But it is not suitable food for Jews, who have a quite different set of responsibilities and require a different strength to fulfill them. I say this, knowing fully that many Jews also suffer from such spiritual malnutrition and are thus incapable of fulfilling HaShem’s high calling. I know also of spiritualy mature Christians who have immersed themselves fully into the Tenakh and the Rav Yeshua messianic writings. Such people often lead parachurch organizations or home bible studies for the purpose of facilitating the enrichment of Christians who seek to grow spiritually. They operate beyond the bounds of the minimalistic 60-minutes-per-week experience. They pursue a self-reinforcing communal experience that parallels the nature of a Torah community. But as commendable as is their praxis, and as much as it might even begin to resemble Torah life and its middot, it is not the same and is not sufficient for Jews (although it might possibly serve as a non-ideal stepping stone along a Jew’s developmental path).

    The learning of Torah is an experience unto itself, that cannot exist in a non-Jewish environment. It “loses something in translation”, so to speak. It depends on the presence of a community of Jews, and it is much broader in its scope than the millennium-and-a-half period encompassed by the Tenakh and the Rav Yeshua writings (i.e., from Moshe onward). While there is much that must be viewed negatively about the current two-millennium Exile that is drawing to a close, it has nonetheless demanded of Jews a special dedication to Torah and it has refined and developed Torah understanding and applications, especially as applications had to be tailored for all manner of severe and non-ideal circumstances. It has had to withstand continual non-Jewish attempts to tear apart the Torah, and to tear Jews away from it. The world still remains to be changed significantly, before Zechariah’s vision can be fullfilled when HaShem is enthroned as King over all the earth … and He will be viewed as a single unitary Lord (Master, Ruler) and His Name (or purpose) shall be viewed from a unified perspective (viz: Zech.14:9). Until then, and likely even continuing beyond until a complete renewal of heavens and earth, the fullness of Torah will remain a Jewish prerogative (i.e., an irrevocable gift and calling).

    The learning of Torah from a Jewish perspective is also quite beyond the minimalistic “aim low” preservation of Jewish identity while surrounded by a non-Jewish environment (even a supportive spiritually-mature Christian one). But, as you’ve previously pointed out, you are not on a “conversion track” toward taking on the full yoke of Jewish responsibilities and identity. And your Jewish wife believes that you could not do so while retaining allegiance to Rav Yeshua (though I tried to suggest that the situation need not be viewed as impossible). So it remains to be seen how you will develop yourself spiritually within whatever non-Jewish Christian context you can find (a best-possible one, I hope), and what impact that will have on your family life. You are not required to become Jewish, and even your wife has limited responsibilities while married to you (though your Jewish children through her will bear responsibilities that you do not). The moral responsibilities of a non-Jewish intermarried spouse toward the support of their Jewish partner (and her children, in a case like yours) are something that you will need to analyze for yourself (with HaShem’s help I trust). I wish you well.

  9. It seems I’ve struck a nerve, ProclaimLiberty.

    You may be taking this just a bit literally and mechanically. The Torah is more than just a set of rules and procedures, although from a Jewish perspective, form and substance go hand and hand. But what is Torah at its core? The answer is quite simple, and I can define Torah without ever referring to the books of Moses directly:

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    -Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

    This is the core of what it is to “do” Torah and it’s within the grasp of any Christian to teach, to learn, and to perform. This says something very similar to what the great sage Hillel, who lived a generation before Jesus taught:

    Let us use the famous story of Shammai, Hillel and the three converts (Shabbos 31) to demonstrate the fusion of Halacha and Aggadah,: A gentile once came to Shammai, and wanted to convert to Judaism. But he insisted on learning the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai rejected him, so he went to Hillel, who taught him: “What you dislike, do not do to your friend. That is the basis of the Torah. The rest is commentary; go and learn!”

    While the church does not attend to all of the particulars of the Torah, and perhaps rightfully so, what is more important to Jesus? What are the “weightier matters?”

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

    -Matthew 23:23 (ESV)

    I won’t inject the entire text from Matthew 25:31-46 here, but it describes what “Torah” is rewarded when performed by any of the Master’s disciples.

    No, the halakhah of tzitzit or similar matters will never be taught in the church, but that’s not the point I was making and it wasn’t Boaz’s point either (I’ve talked with him about it). The point, the real point of the Torah is in what I quoted from above; from the teachings of the Master. If we do that Torah, how can we be doing wrong. And yes, it is a Torah that is taught in churches, perhaps not all of them…but many. That is what I’m seeking.

  10. I don’t know about striking any nerve, or even a “hot button”, but it seems you put your finger on exactly my point — that Christians have no vision of the whole corpus of Torah. They only see the minimalistic summations of significant excerpts. They don’t see “the big picture”. Rav Yeshua told his Pharisaic audience that they should attend to both the weighty issues and the finely detailed ones, particularly citing ones derived from Oral Torah. Shammai’s reply offered a starting point and an instruction to begin learning. Neither was minimalistic in his approach. They were not aiming low, but merely providing an accessible stepping stone that could facilitate access to more and higher steps. In Matt.5:18-19, Rav Yeshua credited the performance and teaching of all of Torah, in all its finest details (!), as leading to greatness in the kingdom of heaven (and in v.20 he referenced even Pharisaic diligence as a less-than-minimal standard). There is no reference to some essential core of Torah that allows the rest to be discounted or discarded, though Christians have often tried to do exactly that (e.g., focusing on only 10 commandments, or only 2). I’m not arguing that non-Jews should teach the entirety of Torah. I’m only insisting that they don’t do so and can’t do so; and that no one should delude himself that they actually do. The impact of this on non-Jewish progress toward anything resembling greatness in the kingdom of heaven is another matter, though the converse of “leastness” within that kingdom may be a significant caution. It should, nonetheless, provide some insight toward what the kingdom of heaven is really like, and how it differs from popular Christian conceptions of it. And I’m not defining Torah in mechanical or procedural terms, which is another reductionistic way of looking at it. Rather, as Rav Shaul put it to the Roman assembly, “we magnify the Torah”.

  11. I still don’t think the answer is abandoning the church. The vast, vast majority of the disciples of Christ can be found in the church. If the church isn’t perfect and we want it to be more “Christ-like,” then we should strive to be more Christ-like. What better way to do so than within the body of those who have preserved the Gospels and the letters of Paul and the other Apostles for nearly 2,000 years. Unity between the church’s vision of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Jewish Messiah King won’t happen by segregating the people who carry these perspectives.

  12. I also wouldn’t recommend that non-Jews “abandon the church”, if by that you mean the generic fellowship of other believers. But in the USA, since the Jesus movement of the 1960s, many have rightly abandoned denominations that fail to represent Rav Yeshua adequately. In Europe, the abandonment of religion in general has emptied churches, but there have been alternatives that formed, sometimes in a house-church model similar to what developed in the USA. Modern evangelicalism also sprang up from this base, though in a somewhat more traditional church model. Many Christians also attached themselves to “messianic Jewish” fellowships and congregations in the search for more authentic roots for their faith. This has not always been entirely satisfactory or spiritually healthy, and has developed doctrines harmful to Jewish identity, such as “One New Man”, “Hebrew Roots”, and even “Ephraimite/Two-Houses” that effectively deny Jewish distinctiveness or otherwise attempt to usurp a position for non-Jews that doesn’t really fit the scriptures or clarify proper expectations for non-Jewish spirituality. It has also included positive effects, however, in a fundamental re-examination of the scriptures and the doctrines that were traditionally (and sometimes falsely) derived from them. It seems to me that in large degree the praxis developed in “messianic” congregations has actually been a diluted reflection of Judaism that is more suited to non-Jews than to Jews. My prior comments were not prescriptive for non-Jewish praxis, but only really an observation that there are different requirements for Jews and non-Jews, and that confusion and misunderstanding exists about what constitutes Torah learning. Similarly, it is somewhat debatable to what degree traditional Christianity actually preserved the apostolic writings when considering its concommittant distortion of their meaning throughout the centuries. The proliferation of modern bible translations reflects the search to recover accurate interpretation and the recognition that it has been lacking. When that becomes coupled with a “wholistic” biblical perspective that recognizes the entirety of the scriptural picture without sublimating “old” under “new”, along with the centrality of Jews to biblical faith and the particularistic distinctions and callings of Jews and non-Jews, respectively, then positive progress is made and former errors are abandoned. It is not ironical that HaShem designated a Pharisaic rabbi named Shaul to write responsa for non-Jewish assemblies 19 centuries ago. A similar need exists today to regenerate proper biblical understanding among the non-Jewish ecclesia.

  13. I also wouldn’t recommend that non-Jews “abandon the church”, if by that you mean the generic fellowship of other believers. But in the USA, since the Jesus movement of the 1960s, many have rightly abandoned denominations that fail to represent Rav Yeshua adequately.

    In a very real sense, I doubt that any of us adequately represents our Master 2,000 years removed, but it’s the striving for the goal that yields rewards, not necessarily getting it all “right.” I see some portions of Hebrew Roots as actually positive in that it has inspired Christians to take a better look at “the Jewishness of Jesus,” so to speak.

    Similarly, it is somewhat debatable to what degree traditional Christianity actually preserved the apostolic writings when considering its concommittant distortion of their meaning throughout the centuries. The proliferation of modern bible translations reflects the search to recover accurate interpretation and the recognition that it has been lacking.

    Be that as it may, it’s what we’ve had handed down to us and as you say, progress is being made. For me, this is where we depend on our faith and trust that God has not left us to “swing in the breeze.”

    My favorite dialog from the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) is delivered by Spock (Leonard Nimoy) , interestingly enough, while he’s answering a fellow Vulcan’s question about why he keeps a painting of Adam and Eve being expelled from paradise.

    We must have faith…that the universe will unfold as it should.”

    I suspect that is also true for each of our individual lives.

  14. Well, if StarTrek analogies are to your taste, consider an observation from Dr.McCoy in “The Omega Glory” when someone asked “Does not your Holy Book say that Good shall triumph over Evil?” He muttered softly that in his experience Evil often succeeded unless Good was very, very careful. Whether or not you are already familiar with Dan Gruber’s book “Copernicus and the Jews”, you might want to read through it.

  15. Never heard of the book, but I remember the Star Trek quote very well. I don’t know that I’d cast the church as “evil” and me as “good” in such a stark contrast, though. My next step is Saturday morning when I meet the head pastor of the church I’m considering. Then we’ll see what happens next.

  16. I wasn’t actually applying the good & evil comment to you and the church, but rather to the idea that the universe must unfold as it should. “Very, very careful”, is always good advice, nontheless; and I do recommend Dan Gruber’s book as likely applicable to the situation you are entering.

  17. Thanks, ProclaimLiberty. Being careful is probably good advice upon entering any type of religious community since, in my opinion, none of them have the corner market of truth in absolute terms. Looked up Gruber’s books on Amazon, but I can’t find anything out about him in terms of a background, including education and qualifications. Reviews on Amazon seem generally good, but Amazon reviews aren’t always entirely unbiased.

    In any event, my re-entry into the ekklesia will be happening in just under 2 1/2 hours.

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