As a church planter, I often get asked very specific questions about what’s happening in north Oshawa, some of which I don’t have an answer for yet. Like, what time are we meeting on Sundays? (We’re not yet.) Where are we located? (Nowhere, yet.) Do I have an office somewhere? (Yes, in the basement of my house. Or, I’m currently in Panera Bread.) What’s my church called, and who is on staff? (Nothing and… well, me.)
I admit, at times those questions are frustrating. I highly value these early months of listening and learning and catching up to what God is already doing around Oshawa - both inside and outside of the Church. It’s so important that I spend time getting to know the people and places of Oshawa, so I don’t come with a conquering or colonizing mentality, but with the posture of learning and service and love toward all those who live, work, and play in Oshawa. At the same time, there’s a part of me that aches to have answers to all those questions - to be able to share real stories of events and life rhythms and have concrete evidence of God’s work in and through and around this new community of faith.
So, as I often do, I’ve been dreaming of what those answers might look like. When would I like to meet? Do we stick with the usual, expected time of 10 am on a Sunday morning? Or do we mix it up and gather for worship on a Saturday evening or sometime mid-week? Where would I like us to be located? Would we rent a school gym or a theatre? Would we use an unused church building? Would we go big and find an empty warehouse and set up shop, or maybe rent a storefront in a new strip-mall that will inevitably be built by the new 407 freeway extension?
But what’s been especially fun to dream about is the name of this new church. What would we be called? The name of a church can be so important - especially for a new community just starting out. It should evoke something - make a statement about who we are as God’s people and who God is in our community. It should bring to mind an image from Scripture or beg a question or start a conversation.
I’ve always loved the name Ecclesia for a church. Ecclesia is the Greek word used in the New Testament for the church that was springing up in a cities and communities all over the ancient world. But it has a history even longer than that. The term “ecclesia” (or ekklhsia) was used, for years, for any sort of gathering. When city officials gathered for a meeting, they were an ecclesia. When religious leaders came together, they were an ecclesia. For a long time, it meant any kind of gathering of a number of people for a specific purpose.
Eventually, the early church began using this term for their gatherings too. While we don’t know if this choice was intentional, once the term “ecclesia” started being used for the gathered people of God, it took on new meaning.
If you dig into the Greek grammar and syntax of this word, “ecclesia” means “the called out ones.” The first part of the word - ec, or ek - means “out” in Greek. The second part of the word, “clesia” or “klesia”, comes from the Greek word kale-o, which means “to call.” So, to put it together - ecclesia means called out, or the called out ones.
And that, my friends, is the church. The church is God’s community of called out ones. We are called out to meet together for a purpose in worship. We are called out together to serve. We are called out together to love both our literal and metaphorical neighbours (Mark 12:30-31), to seek the peace and prosperity of our cities (Jeremiah 29:7), and to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). We are the ones who have been called by name, the ones who belong to Him (Isaiah 43:1).
We are called His children. His people. I love the words of 1 Peter 2:9:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
God has made us His people, His special possession, where He calls us by name. More than that, He has called us out of darkness, into His marvelous light. And as it says in John 1:5, when Jesus, the True Light, shone in the darkness - the darkness could not overcome it. We have been called into that light - that light which darkness cannot overcome. We have been given and gifted that light as the called out ones for Jesus Christ. And we have been called out to go out and invite others into this life of light and hope and grace that we experience now every day.
Now that’s a church I want to be a part of. That’s my prayer for this new community God is building - that we would be the called out ones. As I meet those who live in the new housing developments that stretch Oshawa’s northern borders, I want them to know that they are called out as God’s people. As I engage with students and staff on the campus at UOIT and Durham College, I long for them to live as God’s called out ones in their studies and in their fields. As I encounter my neighbours in the pocket of poverty surrounding Nonquon Road, my heart aches for them to know that God gives hope and life as his chosen and called children. This is what the Church is all about, and this is what I am confident God is building in North Oshawa.