By Sammy Frame, Pastor for Small Groups
It’s a Greek word. In the New Testament (NT) it’s the word consistently translated “church”. It’s a rich, complicated word that has some implications for you and me.
In the ancient world, before the NT came into existence, ekklesia was a civic term. It referred to city councils and other assemblies of persons who held some importance within the community and had authority over the community. The authors of the NT, like Matthew, Luke, and Paul knew this when they adopted the term and used it to refer to the people of God. They were clearly saying that our towns and cities have ‘ekklesias’ but those who follow Christ are the ‘ekklesia’ of the kingdom of God. The church is the assembly of heaven. So when Jesus says in Matthew 16:18-19, “On this rock I will build my ‘ekklesia’, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven,” he means that this ekklesia, together, speaks for his kingdom. It has the authority, the power, the privilege, and the prestige.
Second, the noun ‘ekklesia’ stems from the Greek verb ‘ekkaleō’. Ekkaleō simple means ‘to call out’. Therefore, the ‘ekklesia’ are the ones who are called out. Today, to call someone out is slang for indicting them or charging them with an offense. In the ancient world, someone who was called out was someone who had been asked to a position of importance. In the Bible, then, the ‘ekklesia’ are those who have been called from the mundane and ordinary to the life of significance and purpose.
Third, we tend to think of the church as a place or thing to which you go. So, we’ll say on Sunday mornings, “Let’s go to church today.” Many of us realize that church isn’t a place you go but something you are. So, we might say, “Be the church.” The ancient Greek word ‘ekklesia’, however, referred to an assembly. It was a group of people gathered for a common purpose. In other words, the church is the assembled people of God. You’re a disciple on your own. You’re the church on Sunday morning or at small group. So when Brian says, “The small group is where real church happens,” he’s telling the truth.
So, the question is, “Are you part of the ekklesia”? Are you in the assembly? Are you called to something more significant, to a higher purpose? Are you doing this alone and thinking you’re the church, or are you living in a community where together you express the kingdom of God?
If you’re not sure, you can always get started at www.powhatancommunitychurch.org/idZenCart.