Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on May 31, 2018

I am not a Greek scholar, but I immediately noticed the word “ekklesia” in this week’s reading of Simon Chan’s, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up.[1]  While studying for the ministry, I was taught ekklesia was the Greek word most often used for “church” in the New Testament. However, ekklesia (sometimes spelled ecclesia) is not a building like most people think, rather it’s a PEOPLE, specifically translated as “people, called out by God, for His purposes.” [2] My mentor has taught me that the most common term for ekklesia that is understood in our denominations today is CONGREGATION. For example, “God has a specific plan for our congregation (ekklesia).” My mentor also says, where people congregate, we should operate!

We don’t actually go to ekklesia, we are the ekklesia! Furthermore, we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back about the fact that we went to church, we should rejoice when we went out and actually WERE the church! That is what is meant by ekklesia. We congregate, then we bust out the doors of the church and make a difference in the world in Jesus’ name, by BEING the church. After all, usually the doors to the sanctuary open outwards…

Here is how our author used ekklesia in chapter 1:

“The issue is not how Christian beliefs and Christian experience might function within some larger cultural context, but how the distinctive culture of the ekklesia is to live and grow in the midst of the alien culture of the Gentiles, and what it means that men and women are called out by the gospel from their own indigenous ethnic cultures to the new culture of the people of God [3] (bold mine).

There we go: Congregations are supposed to look different than the world around them. They have been “called out” from mirroring and acting like the alien Gentiles they live near. We are part of a new culture of God, no matter what culture we may find ourselves living in. We talk differently, respond differently, and most certainly behave differently. Called out! Different in word, faith and deed.

For the ekklesia reason alone, I have been (a little) able to understand parts of our current book. I have never been to Asia (unless you count Israel as Asian). I can hardly wait to go to Hong Kong for my first full Asian experience, but if I am learning about this book appropriately, Chan is telling us all how “Asian Theology” was formed, how it fits into our GLOBAL perspectives, and most importantly–how this information is able to be applied to our current contexts.











I have to admit, I am still a little bothered about something I learned from our previous reading of Livermore in Leading with Cultural Intelligence, where we were taught our Western arrogance hinders connecting to our global world because we simply are ineffective at crossing cultural boundaries effectively. For example, from my specific area of dissertation study, I learned Dave Ramsey does not ship Financial Peace University to ANY foreign addresses. Apparently, what works for FPU in my ekklesia does not travel to other cultures and ekklesias. That blew my mind. Things that I had been taking as Scriptural financial mandates don’t apply to other parts of the world. What a bummer to realize that!

William A. Dryness and O Garcia-Johnson cite Chan’s book and say, “Global theology represents one of the most important trends in theology today. A theology without borders introduces us to global conversations” [5] For this reason I attend the LGP DMin Portland Seminary at George Fox University, to gain information and tools to better foster global conversations for my denomination!

Jackson Wu, from the International Chinese Theological Seminary in East Asia, reviews Grassroots Asian Theology and states, “Chan argues that theologizing is a community affair. Thus, Asian theology should reflect both the concerns of local cultures and the insights of the historical church.” [6] I decided to check if this reviewer was accurate, lo and behold “community” is mentioned 88 times by Chan!

Take it a step further beyond community, where Chan writes, “Theology is first a lived experience of the church before it is a set of ideas formulated by church theologians” and “Another name for ecclesial experience is the living tradition.” [7]  Did you catch that? the same root word for ekklesia is expressed by Chan, ecclesial, which he supports as being a lived theology based on community and their communal traditions.

Some readers might wonder if the term “ecclesiastical” is related to ekklesia (ecclesia)? The answer is yes! Ecclesiastical is defined as “being related to the Christian church.” [8]  However, if you are wondering if the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, is from the same root word, the answer is no. Seems so close to me in spelling, but it all Greek to me…


[1] Chan, Simon. Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground up. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014.

[2] Houdmann, S. Michael. “What Is the Definition of Ekklesia?” GotQuestions.org. May 29, 2016. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://www.gotquestions.org/.

[3] Chan. p. 15.

[4] Fdezer, Pablo. “Political Map Asia.” shutterstock.com. July 2, 2017. Accessed May 30, 2018. https://shutterstock.com/.

[5] Dyrness, William A. and Garcia-Johnson, Oscar. Theology Without Borders: In Introduction to Global Conversations. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.

[6] Wu, Jackson. “Reviewing Grassroots Asian Theology.” Themelios from The Gospel Coalition. Accessed April 4, 2018. http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/.

[7] Chan. p. 16.

[8] “Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s Most-trusted Online Dictionary.” Merriam-Webster. May 20, 2018. Accessed June 01, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/.

About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

7 responses to ““Ekklesia””

  1. M Webb says:

    Nice introduction and reader-hook with “ekklesia.” You sound more like a Chaplain than a Pastor in your opening remarks about reaching the hard to reach in the tough places of life. I like it! I agree with your “lived theology” discussion and I am also excited to engage with you and LGP8 at the 2018 Hong Kong Advance.
    It is interesting that FPU does not ship to foreign entities. While it is strongly biased for the Western church, I think Ramsey has a lot of good stewardship principles that transcend the West-East divides. What do you think?
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Jay Forseth says:

      Hey Mike!

      Don’t get me wrong, I am still a Dave Ramsey supporter. I have witnessed his classes helping countless individuals! I a sure some things in the program “travel” to all cultures, just was surprised at zero involvement for FPU around the world…

  2. Hi Jay,

    Following your lead, I just checked out the FPU site and found I can’t order resources to Canada.

    I’ve been impressed by the work of CAP (Christians Against Poverty), a UK-founded organization that opened up here five years ago. It offers much of the same sort of thing that Dave Ramsey would offer (I expect).


  3. I have often said that I want to focus on “being” the church (ekklesia) instead of just “doing” church, just like you wrote about in your post. I love that you brought that challenge out of the book and I hope I can BE the church wherever I go. Great post once again Jay!

  4. Chris Pritchett says:

    Great word on ecclesias! Such an important word in our vocabulary. This was an awesome thought (I like how you brought in Bill Dyrness): “Theology is first a lived experience of the church before it is a set of ideas formulated by church theologians” and “Another name for ecclesial experience is the living tradition.”

  5. Jason Turbeville says:

    I too was caught up by the lived theology discussed by Chan and I think it is something sorely missed in church today. Many in my denomination don’t live their theology. They read it study it and listen to sermons about it but that is where it ends. There are too many who put Jesus in their pocket Monday through Saturday and dust him off for Sunday morning. If we truly lived our theology our lives would look much different.

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Amen Jay. I believe that the best way for the ekklesia to gain the attention of those in the community, is to be noticeably different than everyone else. I always liked the idea of our unique qualities from those of the world. It is not just that we worship God, but that we are united as the body of Christ…or as I prefer…the family of Christ. We love different, we share different, and we live different to show the power and love of God at work in us. Thanks for bringing these qualities to light in your post.

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