The spiritual Body is the ecclesia. The ecclesia is a spiritual Body. The two terms denote different ways of looking at how they operate. They are both spiritual because they are both kingdom. The kingdom is spiritual.
Beginning with this understanding helps us avoid taking the analogies too far or attempting to make them too natural in our attempt to better understand them, opposite of God’s way of speaking about them. God begins with spirit and uses physical analogies to help us understand spiritual reality; we start with physical reality and use the physical to help us understand the spiritual.
Jesus bestowed five aspects of His ministry and leadership upon the Body at the time He ascended to heaven, or simply put, He left these here when He went up to heaven. These are functions of spirit, not physical or natural leadership models. Attempting to describe these functions by comparisons to corporate executives is spurious. Attempts to understand them in modern leadership comparisons, especially religious ones, is equally suspect.
There are Five
Let me say again, since I’m hearing questions about whether there are four or five again. There are five. “Shepherds and teachers” are not one function. We know this without question because Paul says “First apostles. Second prophets. Third teachers.” Paul doesn’t put shepherds and teachers together in any other sense, nor does he do so here in Ephesian 4.
In fact, the term “shepherd” used here never gets translated “pastor” in any other context. The term refers to people who tend sheep. The term refers to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. But the term is utilized to describe a spiritual function and cannot be forced to “walk on all fours” as an analogy.
The term “teacher” is more common, the function more about doctrine (which is nothing more than teaching systematically) while the shepherd functions are more about the practicalities of provision and protection. Still, they are spiritual functions.
These are not titles. What do we mean by that? We mean that the ecclesia and the Body do not have leaders who lead like CEO’s because the Body and the ecclesia are not corporations. The best way to say it may be: we cannot understand what the Bible says about these leaders by starting in the physical, social, or business reality and looking through them at the spiritual kingdom. Nor can we look at church history as a means of understanding what the Bible says about these leaders as a starting point or background to understand the spiritual kingdom.
We must start with the spiritual kingdom and allow God’s use of words to help us better understand the spiritual reality and function of SpiritFirst leadership.
Beware the tendency to gain understanding of the kingdom of God by use of natural world experience and reality as a starting point. Once your are born of spirit, you can enter and see the kingdom, so you can begin the life of living with spiritual reality as your primary point of reference.
For example, remember that Israel wanted a king. This presented no problem to God. God wanted a king as well. Yes, God wanted a king. The reason God said to Samuel, “they haven’t forsaken you but Me” with regard to demanding a king was not that they demanded a king but that they demanded a king “like the nations around them.” Israel started with a “this world” point of reference, so they defined king and kingdom in ways contrary and foreign to God.
In doing so, they forsook their covenant with God and His leadership. The forsook God. God had kingdom in mind for His people from before Creation, but He never had king and kingdom in mind that was like the nations. He king and kingdom in mind that was consistent with heavenly king and kingdom.
Frame this discussion about kingdom, ecclesia, and Body in the same way. God doesn’t begin with a natural function and design a spiritual one in parallel. Just the opposite. God has a spiritual design and the natural function must match the spiritual design and purpose. Moses went up the mountain and God showed him a heavenly pattern and told Moses how to get that spiritual reality invested in a physical reality.
Now, I believe that the ecclesia functions in the work place, the arts, government, education, etc However, these functions are set to transform those aspects of culture, not “christianize” them in some way. We are not adding Jesus to anything like after-market equipment. We are resetting the very foundations of culture with kingdom!
I have heard many good people say, “The church should be run like a business.” When they do, I am never certain if I agree with them because I am uncertain what they mean by that statement.