Dr Kevin Blackwell

Information on Church Health, Disciple Making, Ministry Leadership, theology and Spiritual Growth

Old Testament Synagogue or New Testament Church?

After the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians and the resulting exile, synagogue life began for the Jews. The word synagogue means, “bringing together” or “assembling together”. Since there was no more temple, the traditions of the temple were brought into synagogue life. The Jews would come together and perform their religious duties, discuss rabbinical law, Torah or prophecies and then depart. It was a vital part of life for the Jews both during the exile and the diaspora. The New Testament church also met together much like synagogue worship with one major exception. The Christians met to be strengthened, for worship, teaching and fellowship (Acts 2: 41-47), but their focus was not on the “coming together” as much as it was the “going out.” The very word church (ekklesia) means “called out”. While the synagogue focused on “bringing together” for the purpose of religious ritual, the church was “called out” to transform lives.

This begs the question, Is your church more like a synagogue or a New Testament church? Many of our churches are functioning more like the synagogue model. The religious inner compulsion brings together a group of like-minded believers in order to discuss scripture, perform a few rituals, fulfill their weekly duty and then depart only to repeat it again the next week. When you examine the early church the greatest moments happened not in a building, but on the streets, in their houses, around the temple area, etc. We are certainly called to assemble (Heb. 10:25) but if we only come together for ministry and rarely go out to do ministry we are not functioning as the church. Our coming together should emblazon us to go out and transform our world. Many churches have enclosed and insulated themselves behind stained glass windows and quickly lose touch with their missional purpose. The Christian church should never become a self-enclosed culture of rituals and activities designed to keep Christians comfortable, entertained and happy. Every church is called to engage the culture and community around it with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is important for churches to evaluate their current structure, model, function in order to maintain a New Testament gospel focus. Does your current model for ministry mainly bring Christians together or does it launch its members into great commission focus and missional thinking?

Some questions to ponder:

1. Does your church activities mainly minister to the members or the community?

2. Does your church have a “come and see” or a “go and tell” focus?

3. What current ministries offered are intentionally missional to your community?

4. What occurs more frequently in your church, fellowships or baptisms?

A careful study in the book of Acts can awaken the church to its missional calling.  Another great resource is Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer. http://www.lifeway.com/n/Church-Strategy/Transformational-Church

May God raise up New Testament believers to reach its community and open our eyes to the lostness in our communities.  What changes need to be made in your church?  Does your church function more like a Synagogue or New Testament Church?


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About Me

I have been in ministry for 29 years serving in various capacities including senior pastor, youth pastor, education and associate pastor. I serve at Samford University as Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the Ministry Training Institute. I am co-author of the book, Cultivate Disciple Making. I received his Bachelors Degree from Samford, a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Master of Theology from the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His doctoral work was in the area of church health and revitalization.  I am currently a Ph.D. candidate at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation thesis is An Analysis and Critique of Disciple Making Within Ecclesial Movements in the United States, 1970-2020, With a View Toward Implementing a Faithful New Testament Missio Ecclesia


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