Going to Church (Ekklesia)?
The Greek word ekklesia is translated “church” in English Bibles. It literally means “called out” or “assembly,” and is used to refer to those called out universally from sin (cf. Matt. 16:18), local congregations of Christians (cf. Gal. 1:2; Rom. 16:16), and even to secular assemblies like courts (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
The word “church” originates from the old English word cirice or cyrice, which in turn comes from the Dutch word kerk and the German word kirche, which in turn are based on the medieval Greek term kuriakon doma (“Lord’s house”). I surmise that in medieval times, kuriakon doma (“Lord’s house”) was used synonymously with ekklesia (“called out,” “assembly”) because the ekklesia was referred to as “the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15).
Therefore, whenever you read the word “church” in your Bibles, know that you’re reading a word that should technically be translated “called out” or “assembly.” However, the reason it’s translated “church” is because “church” originally meant “Lord’s house,” a biblical description of the religious “assembly” of the “called out” from sin (1 Tim. 3:15).
So when you say “Let’s go to church,” you’re technically saying either “Let’s go to the assembly of the called out” or “Let’s go to the Lord’s house,” both of which are biblical and basically mean the same thing.
Remember also that God warns us to avoid “unhealthy cravings for quarrels about words” because they produce “dissension…evil suspicions, and constant friction” and prove that we “understand nothing” and are “deprived of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The inconsistent policing of the term “church,” the suspicion of error or even apostasy such policing produces among some who hear their brethren say “Let’s go to church,” and the lack of knowledge and understanding about the origins of these terms all combine to show a prime example of what Paul’s talking about here.
How? Several inconsistencies are made by those who tell their brethren that they shouldn’t say, “Go to church”:
- Technically, we should say “called out” or “assembly” instead of “church” because that’s what ekklesia actually means, but we don’t and no one has a problem with it.
- The etymology of “church” shows that it originally meant “Lord’s house,” a biblical description of ekklesia…so why quibble over something that technically is biblical?
- Ekklesia was also biblically used to refer to a secular court (Acts 19). No one has a problem saying “Let’s go to court” or “Court is in session” or “I’m representing myself in court.” So why have a problem saying “Let’s go to church” or “Church has started” or “I’m in church”?
- When Paul said that it’s shameful for a woman to speak “in church” (1 Cor. 14:35), how is that different from saying, “We’re in church”?
Just something to think about.