The church of everywhere
Want to begin this week with a quote I read yesterday in the Third Way magazine. This is from an article by Cole Moreton, an author, journalist and broadcaster.
“I’ve found this extraordinary church. You really should see it. Yes, I know those words can make the heart sink, but this one’s different. Honestly. The roof is as high as the sky, and the walls are as wide as the world. Rainbows dance behind the altar and a river runs down the aisle. The coffee is made with the finest beans (bought at the fairest prices) but you can have tea if you want, or chocolate or whisky. It’s okay, you choose.
The leader won’t hate you…Guess what? She’s you. Everyone is a leader in this church…There is no hierarchy. It has no priests, no money and no premises and holds no meetings, except by accident. Nobody wears robes. Nobody wears anything, if they don’t want to.
If it all sounds crazy, ridiculous and unlikely, then I have some news. This is not fiction, it’s a fact. This church exists right now. We may as well call it The Church of Everywhere, because that’s where it’s at. Everywhere and nowhere, baby. All rise for the opening hymn, ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’.”
May not say it quite like that but when I read that my spirit leaped with excitement and encouragement. It is time for the church of everywhere. The church that embraces the aisles and the streets, the homes and the schools.
Church…what’s it all about anyway?
One thing that always amazes me is that being a Bible-believing Christian is a great statement to make to boast about how grounded we are in the Scriptures. We believe everything literally as it is written. That is until we face something that can confuse the issue a bit. Like this word ‘church.’ The word we use to translate the Greek word ekklesia. One day I decided to look at the definition of the word ekklesia and the history of the use of the word church, what I found was very interesting.
Tyndale in his original translation of the Bible into English never used the word church. Instead he used the more people orientated congregation. Ekklesia, when being translated, should never ever be about buildings or places to go. It is always about people. Literally a group of called out people with a common purpose. Strong’s Concordance says ‘an assembly called out of (our self-will and the flesh). ‘ In the 1800′s George Ricker-Berry in his interlinear New Testament never used the word church but assembly. Being about people it can therefore never be about where we are going, but it is about who we are. We cannot Biblically go to church because we are the church, the ekklesia of God. The called out one’s.
Called out from where?
Called out from the world? Can this really be true when Jesus said that we were in the world but not of it? Salt and light is about dwelling in places that need taste/purifying or light, not to be hidden under beds and bushels and in salt cellars (church buildings?). We are called out of our old order of life for self. The old systems and controlling places, and into a life that the Bible calls, more abundant. A life in but not of.
Roots of the word church.
The real definitive roots of the word church being in the Bible go back to King James and the translation under his gaze and in his name. King James gave 15 edicts to the translators when they were translating the Bible version we all know. Edict 3 was to retain the word church. He realised as a king he had no dominion or rule over the congregation, or the people as a loose concept of called out people, but he could over an organised church. Therefore he wanted the word in there.
The word church has it’s roots not in Biblical greek but in modern greek, from the word kunoton, lord’s house or building. Also could have roots in the scottish word, kirk, belonging to the lord, or the one I love, the latin word circus, need I say more. All have connotations of ownership or lordship, and therefore rules and control.
The Early Ekklesia
They had no buildings, so they couldn’t go to church. They spontaneously gathered in homes and in the open and in public places. They connected to pray and talk and encourage and learn. They broke bread in their homes, not with an officiating priest, but as the priesthood of all believers. As part of meals and fellowship and fun and love and journey. The Lord added to the ekklesia daily but they were members of nowhere, only members of Christ. Whatever they did they were the ekklesia of God. They could not stop being the ekklesia of God because they were it. Wherever they went the ekklesia went. That is why the aisles of Asda become the place of ekklesia, not because it is a place but because God’s called out people are there.
Johnson is a young man many miles from home. He lives here in the valleys with his wife and children, but he grew up in India. How he ended up here I have still to discover, but I love to share my journey with Johnson. He is a believer. He was brought up a Catholic. We have so much that could divide us over theology and culture but there is something that unites us even more. We are both followers of Jesus. We have shared teaching materials. We talk about family. We pray for each other. Just recently his wife was taken seriously ill and had to be flown back to India to have an operation (now that sounds strange to us westerners.). We prayed. He shared with me. He took time off. We stood believing for God to move as only He could. I am glad to say his wife is back in the UK and is gaining in strength all the time. Johnson is an inspiration to me and has become a friend. I will be tasting his home made curry very soon as I share in his home with his family. Ekklesia.
H is an artist. He loves nothing more than to paint and listen to music. We share much about faith. He is often moved by religious paintings and art. He acknowledges that there is a God and connects with Him through the realm of art. We often talk of music, from the Beach Boys to the Clash to Dylan, and we often talk of how church should be. He loves the concept of church outside the walls. I believe he is already part of the ekklesia even though he has not signed up for anything or responded to an altar all. Ekklesia.
Ekklesia just is. It just happens. I can’t neglect the gathering together because gatherings just seem to happen. As long as you remain relational gatherings will go on around you all the time. The church of everywhere is taking place. And yes that church is always going on in those aisles of Asda. But it continues when I come home at the end of the night.
I am part of God’s great ekklesia. And that is true wherever I am whatever I am doing. I am one of His called out one’s.