Communication Discipleship Evangelization Making Church Matter Scripture

Ekklesia or Kirche

September 27, 2012

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 16.18

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?




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  1. A former Nativity parishioner recently told me “Nativity is for Catholics who want to be entertained”. While I know it was a put down, it got me thinking. Am I being “entertained”? The music makes me want to shout out praise to the Lord, or it can bring me to tears in introspection. Not only do I listen to the homily each week, I CAN’T WAIT to hear it each week. It is always a reflection of something going on or needed in my life. Yesterday I was talking about my fears, a result of childhood abuse, to a friend and a belief that God is calling me to personal courage. I thought to myself- I know tomorrow’s message at mass will somehow relate to courage. And what is today’s theme? enCOURAGEment!! I call that a “God thing”. When I read the daily message, I often think “how did they know that’s exactly what I needed to hear or reflect on?” It’s another “God thing”. So, Fr White, BRAVO to you and your staff for entertaining me. You lead me closer to Jesus than my 12 years of Catholic education or my previous 50 years of attending church. Nativity is such a “God thing!”

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