We chose our name because, well, first of all, ecclesia is the word which is translated “church” in our Bibles. A better translation would have been "congregation," or "assembly." For while "church" suggests a building, ecclesia refers to a people -- a people who are called, gathered, and sent.
So … we call ourselves ecclesia to recover the original meaning of the church. It is not a place we attend; it is a people who are called. We’re called to faith, gathered in love, and sent with hope. We’re “ecclesia : a community of faith, love and hope.” (For more about this, check out the Tab marked “Vision.”)
So yes, our official name is ecclesia. (By the way, it’s usually pronounced ekk-le-SEE-ya, but we don’t really care how you say it.) To be perfectly honest, people call us that about as much as John Wayne was called Marion Morrison. Most people just use our nickname: “Church at the Chip.”
Although ecclesia is our given name, Church at the Chip is our nickname. People started calling us that because we meet at the Buffalo Chip Saloon. We’re probably better known by our nickname than our given name. But that’s just fine with us.
Yes, although people of all kinds worship with us. Most people think of us as a cowboy church simply because of where we meet: outdoors behind a western saloon. Some of us are cowboys, some of us enjoy dressing in the western style, and some of us don’t even own a cowboy hat!
We meet outdoors behind the Buffalo Chip Saloon (6823 E Cave Creek Rd) on Sunday mornings at 9:00. A covered canopy, mesquite trees, large fans and misters give us plenty of shade in the summer, and fire pits and heaters and good old sunshine keeps us comfortable in the winter. Occasionally we move indoors, but you should always assume we will be outside, so be sure to dress accordingly.
We’re only half joking when we say, “Why not have church in a place where people already like to go?” To us, it seems like the kind of thing Jesus would have done. After all, Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19).
In truth, however, we meet at the Chip because they invited us. “I make sinners out of ‘em all week,” the owner says. “The least I can do is let you make saints out of ‘em on Sundays!” We’re grateful for their hospitality, and thankful for the opportunity it offers us to take the good news about Jesus right into the heart of our community.
Other than the fact that people often bring their dog to church, you’ll find our worship fairly typical. When you arrive, you’ll likely grab a cup of coffee before finding your seat at a picnic table under a mesquite tree, or in a chair under our covered canopy. An old-fashioned church bell signals the start of the service.
We usually sing three songs, accompanied by guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and whatever else we can find. Because of where we meet, our songs, which are a blend of the old and new, have a distinctly western flavor.
We greet one another. We read the Scriptures aloud. We listen to a message from the Bible. Generally, we work our way week by week through a single book of the Bible. We close every service by sharing Communion together. We do not take an offering, but a basket is available at the back for any who wish to contribute. We end promptly at 10:00.
We trust that our worship is simple and sincere, encouraging and hopeful, sensitive to people new to Christianity, and helpful to veteran followers of Jesus. Let us know if you think we’ve succeeded.
Not yet. Someday we will have a nursery and programming for younger children, but frankly, we like the idea of families meeting together for worship. In our view, bringing our children to church only to say goodbye to them in the parking lot is not necessarily in the best interests of our kids. A balance between age-appropriate ministry and “big-church” experience is ideal. We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it. Perhaps you can help us get there!