I have been reading Pastor Andy Stanley’s new book, out this week, “Deep & Wide.” He says it’s a book about “creating churches unchurched people love to attend.” My kind of book about my kind of church.
The only time the word “church” is used in the four Gospels comes in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus tells Peter,
I will build my church.
Matthew’s Gospel was written in Greek, and that word church is a translation of the word ekklhsian or ekklesia which means an assembly or gathering together of people in a given locale. The English word church derives not from the Greek word for assembly, but rather the German word kirche which refers to a building. (Sorry, not trying to show off, I know little Greek and no German, just trying to make a point).
It seems clear that what Jesus was talking about when he promised to build his church was lead a growing gathering or assembly of disciples. This is the church that is so strikingly described in the Acts of the Apostles: a dynamic gathering of growing disciples, a powerful movement with a world changing mission.
But all too quickly, in the course of history, churchpeople started to get in the way. Churchpeople always want to try and control the ekklesia that Jesus is gathering; we want to try and contain it in the kirches we build for ourselves. And don’t think this is ancient history. It goes on in parishes everywhere all the time.
Andy goes on to ask a series of questions that every parish, every local church community should be asking itself. Start off the next parish council meeting asking:
Are we moving or simply meeting?
Are we making a measurable difference in our local community or simply serving ourselves?
Are we organized around a mission or an antiquated ministry model?
Are we ecclesia or kirche?