Mark D. Roberts on what the church is supposed to be:
The Christian ekklesia was meant to be an alternative society, a thumbnail sketch of the kingdom of God.
So, for example, in the ekklesia of God, Jews and Gentiles, so often separated in Roman society, shared life together as brothers and sisters. Slaves could also be full participants in the Christian gatherings, enjoying equality in Christ with non-slaves, even with their masters. Women could actively participate in the gatherings just as long as they didn’t engage in the scandalous behavior of the pagan cults. The theological truth that in Christ “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female” was lived out in the Christian assemblies (Galatians 3:28). They were, indeed, a kind of alternative society, one that implicitly rejected the domineering, separatistic, and elitist values of the Roman world.
Could it be said that the church in America today is also an alternative society? Perhaps, in some places and at some times, but I fear these are the exceptions to the rule. The church in our culture tends to play a very different role than what was once envisioned by Paul and the earliest Christians. On the one hand, we often reflect the fallen values of our society rather than the holy values of God’s kingdom. For example, put a church in the middle of a materialistic culture and, odds are, the church will be materialistic too…