In yesterday’s post, I answered the question, “What do I mean when I use the word CHURCH?” I said that I used the word “church” to refer to a gathering of God’s people.
But, how do other people use the word “church”? There are many ways to answer that question. If you check a dictionary, you’ll find that there are several different meanings to the English word “church,” and the word is used with even more referents (i.e., what the word “points to”).
I thought I would ask Google. So, I did a Google search on the phrase “what is church.” The top 8 results are listed below. (By the way, your results might be a bit different, because Google searches are relative to location, user, etc.)
1. According to the article “What is the Church?” on About.com:
The word “church” as rendered in the New Testament comes from the Greek term ekklesia which is formed from two Greek words meaning “an assembly” and “to call out” or “called out ones.” In summary, the New Testament church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as his people under the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).
2. According to Mark D. Roberts in his article “What is a Church?“: (Note: this is a very long article, and probably worth additional study…)
If an ekklesia is an actual meeting of people, then a “church” exists when Christians gather together. The physical meeting of believers is essential to a right understanding of church.
3. According to the article “What is the church?” by CARM:
The word “church” comes from the Greek “ekklesia” which means “gathering” or “assembly.” Therefore, the church is the gathering of the believers who come together to participate in fellowship with one another as they worship God and hear from His Word, the Bible.
4. According to the gotquestions.org article “What is the church?“:
Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people.
5. According to “What is church?” by Felicity Dale at “Simply Church”:
The New Testament uses a number of different pictures of church: church is Christ’s body (Rom 12:5); it is a temple built with living stones (I Pet 2:5), it is a family (Eph 2:19)… Similarly, church is relationships, but the difference between church and any other set of relationships is the presence of Jesus.
6. In the house-church.org article “What is a church?” the author doesn’t offer a definition (unless I missed it). However, there are many links on the page, so perhaps the answer is buried there somewhere.
7. The Wikipedia article “Churches of Christ” begins with this: (It’s not really a definition, but it gives us an idea of how the word “church” is being used.)
Churches of Christ are autonomous Christian congregations associated with one another through common beliefs and practices. They seek to base doctrine and practice on the Bible alone, and seek to be New Testament congregations as originally established by the authority of Christ.
8. In the article “What is a local church?” by Jonathan at the 9 Marks Blog:
A local church is a group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and his kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances.
Interestingly, after the top 8, most of the posts are actually different questions like, “What is church X,” where X could refer to many different things. Those articles do not define the term “church” either.
So, what do you think about these definitions? What does this tell us about the way people are using the English term “church” today?