The ecclesia (Church) is a participatory community of the followers of Jesus Christ, built upon the proclamation of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom, nurtured under leadership of those called by God, situated in a particular time and place, demonstrating the power of God, for the glory of God and the salvation of many.
Participatory – An idea creeped into the Church at some point in our history that has severely crippled it. It is the idea of passive belonging. Despite the commands of Jesus to “pick up your cross and follow me”, it became enough for us to pray a prayer, call ourselves saved and have our name written in a membership roster at our local church organisation, just as we would at our local football club. This was never God’s design. There is no such thing as faith that does not express itself in deed. (James 2:17) Every member of the community of faith is, by definition of our faith, actively involved with each other and with the expression of that faith in the world.
Community – This refers back to our definition of “ecclesia” yet also expresses something unique. The individuals that make up the ecclesia are called to relate to each other in certain ways. The bible uses metaphors to describe those relationships, the main ones being:
- Family – “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
- Body – “so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:5).
The ecclesia is called to be a community of individuals, lovingly committed to one another as a family, functioning together in our uniquenesses as a body (see “Membership”). We are many. We are different. But our differences only highlight God’s mercy in saving all kinds of people. We do not strive for “sameness”. We strive for “oneness”.