Ekklesia in History
In the 1600’s the early Quakers applied this format to their meetings (based on the practises of a group of dissenters called the ‘Westmoreland Seekers’). This started a spiritual awakening in England which spread all over the world. They met in silence and waited on the Lord - only speaking when prompted by the Holy Spirit. This carried on until the late 1900’s when they adopted a more traditional church format.
Then in the 18th Century the early Methodists practiced an Ekklesia-style in their Class Meetings. John Wesley said:
“We will meet together once a week to ‘confess our faults to one another, that we may be healed’ . . . so that everyone, in order, speak as freely, plainly and concisely as he can, the real state of his heart, with his several temptations and deliverances, since the last time of meeting.”
He also said:
“What advantages have been reaped from this? Many happily experienced that Christian fellowship of which they had not so much as an idea before. They began to ‘bear one another’s burdens,’ and naturally to ‘care for each other.”
Jesus commended Peter for the fact that he had received ‘revelation’ (from the Father in heaven). Throughout Church history people have come to different conclusions about what he meant - was he referring to Peter, or the confession that Jesus is the Messiah? Or maybe he was saying that the ‘rock’ upon which Jesus plans to build his Ekklesia is actually people hearing directly from the living Jesus and then saying and/or doing whatever he tells them.
If this is what he meant, then the functioning of true “Ekklesia” is dependent on the Holy Spirit - the actual presence of the living Jesus that he promised when two or three meet together (Matthew 18). So Ekklesia isn’t planned and orchestrated by a human leader, but rather is directly assembled, led and orchestrated by the living Jesus himself.
Then we get to do what Paul spoke about in Colossians 3:16 -
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
The Reformation of the 16th Century brought into focus, among other things, the “Priesthood of all believers”. For Ekklesia to be rebirthed in the 21st Century, maybe we need another reformation?
How does Ekklesia work?
An Ekklesia is a meeting where two or more everyday people are invited to come together to listen to the living, resurrected Jesus and then to speak and/or do what Jesus tells them to. It results in a divinely orchestrated time in the presence of Jesus. Hidden deep in the New Testament is this lost Ekklesia format that is radically different from the way almost everyone conducts church.
In fact 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16 are two particular verses we find in the Bible that tell us specifically how to conduct ourselves in Ekklesia (church)! It demands Spirit-led, active participation by those attending rather than passive listening (like an audience). It requires us to spend time in the presence of Jesus where we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us. When Eli cottoned on to the fact that the Lord was speaking to Samuel (1 Samuel 3), his advice was to say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” That’s all it requires - listening and letting the Holy Spirit speak to you - it may be a prophetic word, a scripture or a picture; something the Lord wants to tell you or ask you to do.
Can it work today?
Last Saturday evening we hosted a “Joining the Dots” gathering in our home in Bolton. After we had introduced the concept of “Ekklesia” we decided to put it into practice. We had a time of quiet - encouraging everyone to pray, “Speak, Lord” and after a few minutes, one-by-one, people began to share what they heard the Lord saying. It was a combination of encouragement to persevere, helpful pictures that meant something specific to the person sharing or others in the group and Scriptures (sometimes with an explanation or definition - like a mini-sermon).
Afterwards, we went into a time of worship - during which the Holy Spirit began to move powerfully in people’s lives. We asked a few people what the Holy Spirit was doing and people shared powerful testimony to what they saw and heard. One person shared an encouraging word from Psalm 23; replacing the word “my” with “the United Kingdom” - very sobering in light of all that's happening politically in the UK at present!
In Matthew 18, Jesus implies that the minimum for his Ekklesia is “two or three”. My suggestion to you is that you pray about inviting (calling together) a small group of people in your home and giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to bring the living presence of Jesus to your Ekklesia - believe me, it will be life-changing!