Just when I was putting my website together, and wondering what to call it, our pastor gave a sermon about the universal Christian church. He used the Greek term ecclesia to describe this gathering of the faithful. People make up a congregation (ecclesia) in their local church. Their local church may or may not belong to a denomination, sharing the same confession of faith throughout the world; or it can be the church universal. Actually, ecclesia can mean any congregation, large or small.
I fell in love with the word and use italic font with an exclamation point (Ecclesia!) on my website, because for me it means a joyful celebration of all the people God knows and loves. I am absolutely convinced we will not stand on a trap door when we die and face God. He will not say, “Oops, you picked the wrong group to join. The other denomination had it right, not yours.” and pull the lever on us, dropping us into the abyss.
This became clear to me as I interviewed ministry leaders, pastors, and faithful Christ followers of all faith tribes, in my work as a reporter. Despite differences in interpretation of various Biblical verses, their commonality far outstrips their differences. The Dean of a nearby non-denominational seminary once said Christians, from the most orthodox to those who handle snakes, have more in common with each other than with the secular world. I believe that, because in all cases, Christ is the center, the Redeemer, the Savior for every one of these people. No matter what his or her “tribe,” each person I interviewed is passionately serving that Jewish carpenter from Nazareth.
That is why, when I pondered the name of my website, I considered its purpose. I wanted to bring Christians together, and show non-believers as well how beautiful the Christian faith can be when the love of Christ weds everyone together.
Jesus prayed to the Father that all would be united in him, as he and the father were united. If that was important to Jesus, his followers must implement that mandate. We need to get to know each other better, and yes, learn from each other because the Holy Spirit moves where he will.
I found it to be a matter of perspective. For example, we have a large back yard and a little dog, so we fenced in an area just off the back deck so he could run free or take quick bathroom breaks during the day. I discovered that the view of my property looked and felt different once I stood enclosed in the fence. I felt safe, cozy, but limited. If I stand outside the fence, I have a broader view, and feel more open to the world.
Sometimes we can become so comfortable and smug in our own denomination or church that we fail to experience the richness of Christian expression that exists beyond our boundaries. Unfortunately, sometimes we “major in the minor” differences and fail to love each other. Is this what we want people, who do not yet know Christ, to see when they look at Christianity?
So I decided to study the various Christian ecclesia, beginning where Jesus (Yeshua) himself began — Judaism and Messianic Judaism.
I’ll let you know what I find.