Meeting God’s Gathering (Ekklesia) Instead Of Religion’s Church

One night I wandered into a group gathered in a college dorm and heard regular people sincerely telling how Jesus had changed their lives.  Later the group joined hands in a large circle, pulled me in, and began to talk to Jesus one after the other.

This was my first encounter with the Kingdom of God, the presence of the actual reign (rule) of God.  Jesus had said that the Kingdom of God was at hand (close) but I had never before been aware of God’s government.  But I was that night — my heart shuddered.  I was so overcome with awe at what I was encountering that I did something I had never done before.  I began to talk to God out loud in front of people.  The word’s flowed from deep within me.

This was God’s gathering of “called out ones” — God’s active assembly, not man’s religious ritual.  Afterwards, I went back to my dorm room and wrote these lines:

Today I saw the Son

Rising From The Water,

Now wine,

And felt His warmth

Caressing me,

As I disrobed

And submerged.

I did see the Son that night (41 years ago) and I’ve never been the same.  He rose in front of my eyes from a gathering of ordinary people who seemed as common as water.  With His Presence, I saw warmth and felt it deeply — peace, love, compassion, sincerity, openness, reality, and meaning — wrapping around me, soothing my pain.

I was overcome.  My walls fell down.  My masks and coverings came off.  My problems, my obsessions, my fears, my self-focus; all began to melt as I sank into the loving reign of God.

For almost 4 years I gathered spontaneously with this group of called out ones.  They were called, not to be preachers or religious professionals.  No, they were called to passionately pursue the Presence and will of God — to seek first God’s reign and His right living.  (See New Testament verse:  Matthew 6:33.)

When I graduated and moved on, I went looking for God’s gathering of called out ones, for His ekklesia.  I went to many churches (sometimes staying for years in a particular church) but I could not find the present reign of God.  I couldn’t find anyplace where God, Himself, was allowed to be the One in control (to set up His kingdom).  There was always a strong element of human control — agendas, programs, strong human authority figures — a tightly regulated environment.

How I longed for so many years to see again God’s gathering, freely led by the Holy Spirit rather than by human domination.

Finally a call came from an unexpected place.  A Salvation Army major wanted to meet with my wife and me.  He told us that a Salvation Army corps (church) had been closed a few years before and he wanted to reopen it.  However, because traditional church hadn’t worked in that place, he wanted it to be different.  His word was “nontraditional.”  He asked if my wife and I could start something different.

My heart leapt.  Did I hear him correctly?

Yes.  We were given the freedom and support to begin a Spirit-led gathering of God’s people.  That was four years ago.  As you know, I can’t keep quiet about what God has done and is doing at The Salvation Army Berry Street Worship Center.  I written many blogs about it, such as:

A Nashville Dream Fulfilled After 121 Years

I’m Livin’ My Dream In Nashville

Be Part Of Changing Lives And Transforming A Neighborhood In Nashville

However, words can’t really show you what it is like.  Perhaps you should wander in and see for yourself (like I wandered into that gathering).  It might just be the very thing that you have been looking for all your life.

Sunday mornings @ 10:45 & Thursday nights @ 6:30.  225 Berry Street, Nashville, TN   37207.

Update . . .

After writing and posting this article this morning, I had a “stumble upon” experience, or what I prefer to call a God leading.  I saw copy of Time magazine in an office and picked it up.  It contained an article about Nones.

Nones are a growing percentage of America’s population — people who claim no religion.  However, the article said that most Nones consider themselves to be spiritual and open to God, just not religion.  The article said that denominations must decide whether to adapt to the Nones or loose them.

Thank God that The Salvation Army has chosen to be adaptable.  And our experience matches the Time article.  We have found that Nones are very open to participatory, non-religious gatherings for God.  (This is sometimes called “organic church.”)

About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. I have written two books: Mindrobics: How To Be Happy For The Rest Of Your Life and Your Sperm Won--Experiencing Your Value As A Championship Human Being. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I lead a non-traditional church in Nashville based on open participation and Spirit-led sharing. We long to see the power and passion of the early church come to life in our time.
This entry was posted in alternative lifestyle, American church, Berry Street, Berry Street Worship Center, Christian, Christianity, church, church history, church structure, compassion, conversion, disciple making, disciples, discipling, early church, ekklesia, evidence for God, freedom, gift of God, gifts of the Spirit, God's government, Greek, hearing God, hearing Jesus, history, Holy Spirit, hope, house church, I Corinthians 14:26, improvisation, kingdom of God, life, lifestyles, meaning, movement, Music City, mystery, mysticism, Nashville, non-material reality, non-traditional church, nones, normal Christianity, order of worship, organic church, outreach ministry, participatory church, peace, praise and worship, prayer, presence of Christ, presence of God, recovery, religion, revelation, right conduct, salvation, simple church, Spirit-led, spiritual, spiritual formation, spiritual growth, stumble upon, testimonies, The Salvation Army, the way we do church, Time magazine, Uncategorized, voice of God, What is church?, Why be a Christian?, worship and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Meeting God’s Gathering (Ekklesia) Instead Of Religion’s Church

  1. david says:

    Awesome story Steve! Thanks for sharing it “)

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  3. Michelle Hale says:

    Ok Im confused….Please explain the word Ekklesia

    • Steve Simms says:

      Literally it means “called out ones.” It also refered to an elected assembly in ancient Greece, ie. a congress. A good definition is “a gathering of God’s called out ones.” Hope that helps, Michelle.

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