Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:7-17
When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing towards the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. — Joshua 3:14-17
What constitutes a “church”? I had the opportunity recently to participate in a short discussion of this question at a meeting of one of the organizational bodies of the faith group with which I am a member. We were discussing that our by-laws use the word “church” to describe certain rights and privileges. When we apply a conventional definition of the word “church” we most often think of a congregation with a building, by-laws, officers, and staff. We have ministries that might benefit from these same rights and privileges, but do not necessarily have a building or by-laws or officers or a staff. We decided that at a future date we needed to delve further into what is a “church” and perhaps reconstitute our by-laws to match what we find.
The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios)*. The Greek word ekklésia is translated 114 times in the New Testament as “church”. It means an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers*. These definitions are certainly broader than the conventional perception of the definition of the word “church”.
What does all this have to do with the Israelites crossing the Jordan? Religious leaders must not be afraid to step into deep water to fulfill the call of Christ to be the Body of Christ in our world today and that may mean changing our constitutions and by-laws to keep up with the Joshua’s of the world. Such change will require much discernment and a whole lot of covenantal conversations that entail at least as much listening and prayer among all participants as they do talking.
Prayer: Holy One, grant us the courage to step out in faith and wade in the water of your callings. Amen
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.