Finding Ekklesia

Several weeks ago, I was asked how to find “ekklesia” (the Greek word in the New Testament often translated as “church”).

Many today are frustrated because they can’t seem to find authentic fellowship, or feel stuck in the “wilderness” after leaving the institutional church.

As I’ve thought about this, it’s been hard for me to know how to respond. The last thing anyone needs is another “program”, “method” or “three easy steps” to find something that God designed to be authentically birthed, and sustained, organically.

You see, God intends that life reproduce life. That principle is built into the very fabric of creation. Like all things that impart life, real ekklesia is organic, through and through.

And by “organic”, I mean simply this: The authentic and diverse life of Christ in me, which is then expressed among us and through us as we become the wonderful, dynamic, multi-gifted and participatory Body of Christ.

The key to finding this, I think, is found in those two words: authentic and diverse.

So here’s my response on how to find ekklesia, rooted in my own experience of finding, and then helping others find, real life and real fellowship – not as one who’s arrived, but simply as one who has been on the path maybe a little longer.

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Glorious, Messy Reality

Danger, Danger, Danger: Are you someone who is adamant about Jesus and fellowship needing to reflect your own theories and sensibilities, yet are not yourself in functional ekklesia (the Greek word used in the New Testament for “church”)?

The wonderful, multifaceted Body of Christ

By ekklesia, I’m not talking about your traditional Sunday-go-to-meeting “church” with it’s hour of worship-band sing along, directed prayer and monologue sermon. Nor am I talking about posting on Facebook.

Rather, I mean authentic, flesh-and-blood community which finds expression as the multifaceted, multi-gifted Body of Christ – including dynamic, diverse and participatory fellowship gatherings.

Because I am very, very careful not to spout off pet theories divorced from reality, I try to keep my blog rooted in such fellowship. There’s enough naive, aspirational gibberish in the blogsphere these days, and practical reality seems to be sorely lacking.

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Jesus at the Fringes

It’s amazing how ekklesia takes root in the fringes of society when you empower Christ in existing community rather than trying to bring “church” to them, take them to “church” or do “church” for them.

Why Do We Make It So Complicated?

When some of us started changing our perspective, we started seeing dynamic, participatory, indigenous fellowships emerge in the jail, among the homeless, and with ex-offenders – as well as other improbable existing communities.

The life of Jesus that is evident in those fellowships at the fringes of society is now attracting “normies” to come and be part of their times together. It is amazing to see the spread of the Gospel through those whom society scorns, for the redemption of society.

When you introduce people to the freedom to find and express Christ in them and through them – and thus allow them to relate together as a fully functioning and participatory Body of Christ – Jesus just naturally happens!

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Church?

Crossing The Chasm

Earlier this month I had the privilege of visiting a network of churches in Branson, Missouri, comprised of over a dozen recovery homes where people were ministering one to another in authentic community. In the context of that community of love, grace and fellowship, the Lord was using those whom He had redeemed from sin and addictions to bring healing and reconciliation to other broken people.

During the trip, I innocently made the comment that I was seeing an amazing example among them of what the “church” should be. One of the men I was talking to looked pained at my well-intentioned compliment, and responding by gently but emphatically stating they were NOT a “church”.

Over the next several days, I finally understood where he was coming from.

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Understanding the Seven Motivational Gifts

This PowerPoint presentation looks at the seven gifts listed in Romans 12, and the motivations and ways that different people use those differing gifts. More significantly, what is the resulting fruit when your church allows those seven gifts to be fully expressed in its structure, ministries, leadership, meetings and day-to-day fellowship?

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Ekklesia and Diverse Gifts, Part 3: What A Meeting Looks Like

So when we get together, what should our meetings look like as we use our differing motivational gift?

As a preliminary matter, this example assumes that there is a commitment by all to actively participate, and that everyone in fact has a vibrant walk with the Lord so that they have something to contribute.

Those are BIG, but indispensable, assumptions (but that’s a topic for another blog!).

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Ekklesia and Diverse Gifts, Part 1: The Motivational Gifts

True church - ekklesia - in the New Testament is ministry one to another, as an expression Christ in us, among us and through us as we use our diverse gifts to encourage and build up each other. Ekklesia and Diverse Gifts, Part 1: The Motivational Gifts

It’s one thing to embrace Paul’s metaphor of being the Body of Christ, where everyone is a different part as we participate and minister one to another according to our unique spiritual gifts.

It’s quite another thing to figure out how to do that in practical terms, especially when we meet together and abstract principles hit cold, hard reality.

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The Church in the New Testament: Its Form, Function and Purpose

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride! In this PowerPoint presentation, all that you think of as “church” is about to be challenged so God can woo us back to being, once more, the multi-faceted, wonderful, exciting Body of Christ.

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Authentic Church

“So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight… Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other… This goes for all the churches — no exceptions.” The Message, 1 Cor. 14:28-33.

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Reboot

God seems to be laying a foundation for yet another of His periodic, history-changing interventions in the affairs of man. Over the last two thousand years there have been many such paradigm shifts, and it’s naive to think that our current, settled status quo will somehow be exempt from the unsettling but progressive advance of His Kingdom.

Paradigm Shifts

This newest paradigm shift is starting with pioneers who realize that God’s primary goal in history is to change not only individuals but also whole cultures and nations — as per the Great Commission.

Likewise, as with all prior interventions in history, His will is being applied to more and more aspects of His creation here on earth, just as it is in heaven — as per the Lord’s Prayer.

We also are coming to realize that the Kingdom of God — His will being done on earth (including all spheres of human endeavor) as it is in heaven — is bigger than the church. Nonetheless, we are beginning to understand that His Kingdom is not going to advance much further unless the church re-discovers her New Testament roots.

Admittedly, there is comfort in the familiar status quo of “church” as we’ve all come to know it. Some, however, are so hungry for God’s Kingdom — as it continues to progressively advance through history — that they’re willing hit to the reboot button and look afresh at God’ s purposes.

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True Ministry

Last night, we had one of our best times of “participatory church” as we seamlessly shared a meal, partook of communion, fellowshipped and ministered one with another — and none of it depended on me!

The last several weeks have been very emotionally and physically exhausting for me. On top of my best friend dying, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my various professional and counseling commitments while concurrently experiencing a particularly bad bout of chronic fatigue from my autoimmune condition.

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Improbable Church

The church that meets together at my home each Friday evening to share a meal, encounter God and minister one to another is an improbable assembly of believers and even not-yet believers. We cut across races, cultures, nationalities, social status, and so many other lines – producing a rich tapestry of interwoven lives.

It reminds me of Adullam’s cave, where “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented” went to flee from Saul. While there, God began the process of forging them into leaders who eventually established and became pillars in David’s kingdom. 1 Sam. 22:2.

Likewise, if you saw us you would laugh and wonder, “what can God do with these people?” Yet, isn’t that God’s way: to establish his Kingdom on earth by transforming lives, cultures, nations and history not with the ordained, but with the ordinary?

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The Lost Art of Dialogue

As last Friday’s church met over a shared meal (nothing fancy — KFC this week!) around a kitchen table, someone asked a question that opened up a great discussion on God’s sovereignty and human will. We must have spent at least an hour in dynamic exchange — with amazing questions, comments and seeking Scripture together as God’s truths opened up for everyone.

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