26th February, 2013
The ekklesia are the called out followers of Jesus, aka Christians, who in turn are the church. This second look at ekklesia takes one step back from the word to ponder more closely the word’s cultural context. To consider the Greek social practice of ekklesia, before the church came into being, can sharpen our understanding of what it means to be the community of Christ followers.
Originally an ekklesia was an assembly of and for the citizens of a city. In this assembly civic decisions were made to establish and/or ensure good governance. These decisions could involve the appointment and dismissal of magistrates, declarations of war or peace, the raising and allocating of funds and other policy matters pertinent to citizen welfare.
PICTURE: Miguel Saavedra/www.sxc.hu
"By nature the aspiration for these assemblies was equality and freedom. As a citizen you had a right to be part of the ekklesia but you also had a duty to be actively involved."
By nature the aspiration for these assemblies was equality and freedom. As a citizen you had a right to be part of the ekklesia but you also had a duty to be actively involved. In an attempt to avoid bias and personal agendas ekklesias had to have a large turnout to make decisions on matters such as having someone banished.
This general understanding of what it means to be ekklesia was attached to the word when it began to be applied to the church. It does not establish the full nature of the church as ekklesia but it throws up some interesting concepts for the ‘called out’.
• The ekklesia/church is an assembly of the citizens of the Kingdom of God in a given geographical region.
• The ekklesia/church put aside their day-to-day lives to meet and make decisions for the good of all.
• The ekklesia/church appoint and dismiss key personnel in community roles whose job is to maintain and build on the health and well being of the community.
• The ekklesia/church establish and direct policy whose purpose is to extend a healthy community.
• The ekklesia/church give financially to achieve a strong healthy community.
• The ekklesia/church seek to live a clear expression of the grace God has given their community.
• The ekklesia/church offers the right to every Christian to assemble and the duty to be a contributor to the community.
• The ekklesia/church is a gathering of citizens of God’s Kingdom who together worship, listen and act on His behalf.
• The ekklesia/church fosters equality and debunks exclusivity. Every follower of Christ is to assemble. Every follower is to participate without prejudice. Mutual responsibility is a bulwark to community strength.
• The ekklesia/church recognises the mind of Christ is to govern its affairs. Christ’s love and grace are its message and strength. Should these diminish or be lost the community would stagger and topple.
In reading these ideas you might have gotten the feeling they were penned by a first century Moses coming down from the mountain with Ten Edicts for the church. The language is somewhat formal and official sounding.
However, the church was never, and is never, meant to be anchored to a set of motions, procedures and agendas which form a gridlocked legal framework. Woven throughout these 10 statements there should be vibrancy and vitality derived from being connected to Jesus. His life is to be the community’s life.
What a healthy ekklesia/church lives and breathes is the love, joy and peace of the Holy Spirit and the Ten Edicts are built on this expression of His life. The ekklesia/church is not established on a legal framework but on Jesus Christ the foundation stone.
When the ekklesia/church met they shook off the dust of everyday life, assembled, and then got back to the everyday with the confidence that the flow-through effect of the assembly’s character and decisions will shape their life and their community, for good.
May we have such confidence in our local ekklesia.
FOR PREVIOUS: THE CHURCH AS EKKLESIA
Welcome to ekklesia. Welcome to church. You are now a part of the ‘called out’. Having the same point of origin, dead in sin, you are now in the exceedingly better situation of the born again.
Welcome to the community of believers, to the band of Christians local, worldwide and in heaven. Welcome.
No-one hailed me in this way when I became a Christian but I have more than an inkling this was heaven’s resound.
That born again moment not only tied me to Christ with its resultant cross-carrying and following but it also connected me to others who had also bowed their knee to Jesus.
I was a part of The One: one family, one body, one flock, one temple, and one vine.
I was a part of The One With Many: many relatives, many biological entities, many sheep, many stones, and many branches.
LLOYD HARKNESS writes about what it means to belong to the 'Body of Christ'... |
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