Tuesday, 21 September 2010

An ecclesia in your neighborhood

Sometimes you hear people complaining that they do not have a church nearby.
But then you could wonder why they do not bring the church in their village. God is everywhere and you can reach Him at any place all over the world. He is not limited to a certain building.
So those who would like to have an ecclesia nearby could start to create that place in their home town.

The Brothers in Christ prefer to use the term ecclesia (ekklesia in the Greek) meaning ‘gathering’ and historically refers to any gathering in any context, secular or otherwise. The word implies people not buildings or programs. All of God’s people make up the church. We are the church together. ‘Church’ is people. That is the view the earliest Christians had of themselves.‘Church’ is loaded with so many connotations. We wish we didn’t have to use it! One easily thinks of buildings with pointy roofs, stained glass windows, pews, pulpits, shrines and statues, priests and pastors. People think of it as ‘where you go’ and ‘what you do’. This is a far cry from the view the earliest Christians had of themselves.

The basic unit of the church in the first three centuries was the ‘household’ or ‘oikos’ (Gr). Oikos refers to the ‘household’ rather than just the building. Households in New Testament times included wider family, slaves, servants, clients and in fact one’s ‘sphere of influence’. We as brothers and sisters in Christ should feel bounded together and should not feel that there are any differences between us in rank, colour, age. Everybody in the community should have the same value. Our binding element should be Christ Jesus, who died for us all. As his followers we should be like being his brother or sister and should share the love with others as he showed his love for all those around him.  Jesus went into different houses and showed in them how people could come to his Father. In one upper room he also showed the apostles how they should continue his work and have a meal together with other believers. Around the table he asked them to do in remembrance of him a breaking of the bread and a sharing of the cup of the New Covenant. Jesus did not do that in the temple, but in a hired room in a normal house. We also can either hire a room, use an open or public space or better still, use a living or other room in some ones house. Jesus was reared in a home in a family and as a family man he loved also the atmosphere and fulfilled his ministry often in homes. The house was, as today, the place where the basic unit of society lives – the family. Note the many times we read of Jesus eating with His disciples and with others – in homes.
Disciples were sent out on a door-to-door mission and Jesus also told them to continue their way in case they were not welcome at a certain place. After Pentecost, Christians met in houses. In Romans 16:3-5 and in several other places in the New Testament, reference is made to the church that meets in a home. Work and ministry in homes was part of Paul’s mission journeys.

Start with two or three friends - have a meal together, and share your vision.  Plan to encourage one another, share you lives, pray together to seek God's way forward to be and to do what He wants for you as a gathering and for the community around you.  It's as simple as that!

In our small community it is important to be open to new comers. But we always do have to be aware that we all come from many different experiences in our Christian journey. the ecclesia does not have to have many people, it is more important that those who are present are people who want to share the Good News and want to serve God. However small it is important that they are willing to encourage one another, share life, pray together, read the Bible together, and enjoy God and one another.

You could ask if there has to be a strict order of the gathering. Except that there should be a welcoming moment, an opening, a centre part  with lots of time to be taken for the Word of God with Bible reading and exhortation, the Breaking of the Bread and then a closure, there should be no strict format you have to follow or for everyone to agree on minor matters of doctrine for this to happen. It just can be inspiring to have every time a different service. Also we should avoid any regular uttering of preformed repeating texts. You do not have to be afraid to create prayers or moments of meditation on the spur of the moment, or to be afraid that the texts would not be brought fluently enough when it is not a set text. Members of the community should be sympathetic to anybody who dares to open his or her mouth. Understanding has to go out to all those who bring something into the service. Spoken or sang anything is welcome. A worship service has to be one of action and everybody in the ecclesia should be part of that action. All, young or old can contribute.

The experience of the Risen Lord was an ever-present vibrant reality within the individual and amongst the followers of Christ as they encouraged, blessed, taught and enabled one another, and as they joyously spread the Good News of the Gospel from household to household. Today is should not be different. We all should spread the word and that beautiful message of the Good News the New Covenant and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
By coming together in one place or other we can give each other a moment of blessed time.  for us it can create an opportunity to built one another from the teaching we received from the time we could have free to read in the Bible. We should be aware that not everybody has the same chances to spend the same amount on reading the Word of God. Also not everybody has the same gifts to read and understand easily. So we all should help each other to see the light. We should give each other the possibility to bring forward some questions on all sorts of matters. All the questions brought forward can then be answered in the light of Gods Word. By bringing forwards different interpretations every body can see  and hear how others think and understand certain phrases in the Bible. Everybody can also share the experience of the ways of God in each person. Very grassroots and alive. Teaching and admonishing one another all can look at and share prophecy, tongues and other gifts.

We should not be afraid that every worshipping service is different. What happens arises from the experience of God that each member has. Growth happens as the encouraging and enabling one to another takes us further on the journey as individuals and as a group. In the ecclesia we should enable and encourage the gifts of one another for the building of the Body. And this is easier to do in a smaller community, so it may not bother us that we are such a few.