Friday, February 10, 2006

The Best Modern Study on the Ekklesia (Church)

My father, Paul Burleson, sent me this morning an excellent series of articles on the true nature of the ekklesia by John Reisinger, one of my favorite Bible teachers of all time. This Southern Baptist pastor/teacher/author has spoken in my church on several occasions and I have spent much of today reading his five part series on The Ekklesia. Every article is excellent. The first article sets the foundation and the fourth article addresses specifically issues we are facing within our convention.

The Ekklesia - One.
The Ekklesia - Two.
The Ekklesia - Three.
The Ekklesia - Four.
The Ekklesia - Five.

You will enjoy these articles and if you really study them, you will always have an answer for that person who tends to take a Landmark view of the church. Many, many issues are at stake in this debate, including evangelical cooperation, missions funding through denominational boards, etc . . .

In His Grace,



Unknown said...


These papers present our position very well and demonstrate why this issue within the IMB is not a small one, but deserve convention wide attention. If we (SBC) were to shift toward landmarkism in our policy and doctrinal tests for cooperation, it would be a sad day indeed for many conservative churches like mine and yours.

Kevin Bussey said...


Is there a cliff-notes version! :)

Anonymous said...

Today's lesson was some deep reading. My time was well spent however in the examination of these lectures. I think one of the best conclusions for the information given for ekklesia and the divergent schools of thought concerning what is the "church" was illustrated in this quote from Reisinger's Ekklesia Part 5:

"What I do have hope of doing is saying out loud what many Christians already feel in their hearts! I believe there are many Churches, Pastors, and battered sheep who are sick of the evils that have attended the 'we are the true church' mentality. They are ready to reach out and accept, and be accepted by, a much broader spectrum of other believers without denying or jeopardizing our sovereign grace convictions. They are ready to get involved in 'furthering the gospel' (Phil 1:5) instead of building the one true institutional church on earth."

I think the subtle shift towards "landmarkish" policies must openly be addressed with both character and conviction. You have both Brother.

Bill Scott

Tim Sweatman said...

Whew, deep reading there. Looks like I picked the wrong week to start a discussion on What Is a True Christian Church? Somehow I think Reisinger would say that's the wrong question.

Given that my comment has reached 4 long paragraphs, I believe I'll just give my general take on Reisinger's articles and post my full comments on my blog.

I agree with his basic assumption that the church by its very nature is one, including all people who have been called to salvation in Christ. While he does an excellent job demonstrating that there is no reason for institutional and organizational differences to divide us, I would like to have seen more discussion about how doctrinal variations relate to this issue. Specifically, how would being one with fellow believers who have doctrinal views significantly different from ours play out in the real world? I also think that he (perhaps unintentionally) de-emphasizes the importance of the local assembly in the NT.

Anonymous said...

If these 5 articles could somehow be summarized into a 2-3 page paper, it would be a tremendous help and blessing to today's ekklesia. Anyone out there willing to take a stab? If anyone does, I will gladly translate the summary into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking brethren. As an IMB missionary, I would have to agree with Reisinger that how we define "church" has all kinds of major implications on everything else going on in the Kingdom.

GeneMBridges said...

I particularly like what he says about the invisible/visible church. I have always felt this was a false antithesis, and it doesn't help when people use those terms in different ways.

Personally, I use the terms with a great semantic range. The "invisible church" can range on a continuum and refer to any group of regenerate persons of any denomination and in any age, or it can refer to the whole of the elect gathered in the eschaton.

Part of the problem is that those using these terms talk past each other on a regular basis. For example, to whom is the church "visible?" To whom is it "invisible." The local churches in CA are invisible to me here in NC. On the other hand, the regenerate members of my own church, if you wanted to really press the issue, are visible to me, but then so are the unregenerate folks (despite the control of believer's baptism) if any. God sees both at any given moment.

So, is the church a spiritual union of all regenerate souls? Yes.

Is there an "invisible/universal church?" Yes

Is there a local, organized, visible church? Yes

Each of these is underwritten in a specific manner, and the confusion when discussing them often proceeds from the assumption that dogmatic usage of words and exegetical usage of words overlaps but is not always the same.

It would be helpful if Baptists, as a whole, would simply define what they mean so we could all speak the same language.

Anonymous said...

I very much admire the focus of Reisinger on taking the Bible as it is and not using it to support predetermined conclusions. It seems to me the SBC should have learned the danger of this approach after we used the Bible to support segregation. It seems we are not all that quick on the uptake.

I followed one of the links to Reisinger's web site. He is clearly a 5-point Calvinist. Even more interesting, he holds the same attitude about this as he does about the Ekklesia. He is very confident of his position but does not believe that those who disagree with him are lost or that he cannot cooperate with them.

The comments of the missionaries on Wade's post the day after this one indicate that the SBC sorely needs to develop this attitude into our "corporate culture". When missionaries speak of being afraid to disagree with the party line and state that most of the other missionaries they know feel the same way, we have a serious problem. The treatment of Wade by the IMB Trustees certainly does not help. It gives the impression that principled dissent is not tolerated at any level in the SBC. Leaders who are confident and can defend their actions and beliefs are not afraid of dissent. Great leaders seek out opposing views to hone thier own and to continually seek ways to improve. I am a scientist, and all the work I do is subject to review and critique, and my research funding depends on being judged among the top 10% of applicants by peer reviewers. This is not always a pleasant process, but it explains why the U.S. leads the world in biomedical research. A self-critical attitude also promotes humility. Thus, I am not concerned, as some who have posted here, that division and distraction will result from this IMB controversy. Rather, I see it as a much needed catalyst for a whole new attitude in the SBC.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Wade, thanks for linking the Reisinger articles. I always enjoy what he has to say. It will make you think, even if you don't agree. I have waded through all five of them as best I could with blurry eyes on a laptop screen. Will re-read after getting them on a hard copy.

I'd like to highlight two things from his conclusion, article 5. Reisinger writes, "It is not a question of brotherly love or tolerance. It is men sincerely holding totally different basic presuppositions. If both men are honest, then it is impossible for them not to try to be totally consistent with the logical implications of their respective views." This is something we need to realize. Often times we are debating the "details", when we don't agree on the foundation. I have pointed this out in a few debates with brethren on the Baptist Board. If we don't take the time to examine the presuppositions, we will always be spinning our wheels.

And finally, regardless of where we come down on the issues, we would all do well to take to heart and search our souls with his question, "If our church has the most truth and the only true biblical authority, why doesn't God use us to save His true sheep instead of using those people that we are constantly opposing and criticizing?" Who among us, if only in that quiet moment with ourselves, doesn't have some deep-down (even if repressed) belief that "I am doing it right." Whatever the valid answer to Reisinger's question, let us not simply dismiss the question.