Reaching Out to Romanians in Detroit
It all began with a simple conversation.
Four years ago, while still a Fuller student, Chris Lambert (MDiv '06) happened to be talking with a Romanian woman who told him about some of the challenges regarding church that younger Romanians face today. What many see as extreme legalism, identity crises, and other notable factors have led to a disconnect between traditional Romanian churches and the younger generation, said the woman, resulting in a mass exodus of the 35-and-younger crowd from Romanian churches.
Chris was stirred within, but he had no particular sense at the time of how he might help. He prayed that God would raise up new leaders for Romanian churches, never anticipating that he would end up being part of the answer to his own prayers.
Months passed, and Chris's memory of the conversation persisted. His wife, Andrea Gherghel Lambert (MDiv '06), is Romanian, so he had ongoing opportunities to interact with the Romanian community by virtue of his connection with her. A desire began to grow in both of their hearts to plant a church for young Romanians and their non-Romanian friends--and the vision for Ekklesia was born. "Ekklesia is the Greek word for 'church,'" Chris says. "We're on a journey to discover and live out together what God truly desires from his church, so we want to do and be whatever he wants us to do and be, leaving the rest of the garbage behind us."
Before stepping out with this vision, though, Chris and Andrea spent some time in preparation. Both were nearing the completion of their Master of Divinity degrees at Fuller, and Chris wrote out the vision for the church plant as part of his work for an evangelism class--which led to his receiving the F. Carlton Booth Evangelism Award. Chris also preached several times in a Romanian church and dialogued with seasoned pastors, and both Chris and Andrea prayed.
"Fuller exposed me to a Christian atmosphere that offered a wide variety of necessary experiences that helped me grow significantly in a relatively short period of time," Chris says. He did coursework toward his MDiv concurrently with involvement in active ministry, and found the combination of theory and practice to be a helpful one. After graduation, Chris and Andrea spent nine months in Liberia, watching church planting in action there...and then landed in Detroit to plant Ekklesia.
The first step was to gather a core group of leaders. "God has brought 15 highly competent and extremely committed people alongside us in this journey, serving Ekklesia as leaders," Chris says. "They're the kind of people we'd be friends with even if we weren't ministering together!" Ekklesia met in homes for several months and grew steadily, with over 200 people attending the group's first public event. Then, in early 2008 they moved to their new worship space--located in a local mall, where they can be highly visible within the community.
Ekklesia has a vision for the future that highlights outreach. As part of "discovering and living out the true meaning of church," Chris explains, "a major focus of this ministry is social justice and developmental initiatives. We intend to partner with local non-profits and serve downtown and in the surrounding areas, eventually becoming ready for extensive involvement in Detroit and beyond." As legalism gives way to freedom and authentic community, Ekklesia is poised to make a difference in the lives of those around them...and it all began with a simple conversation.
For more information on Ekklesia, and to stay posted on their latest news, go to www.ekklesiadetroit.com.