the weblog of Alan Knox

How others use the word CHURCH… according to Google

Posted by on Aug 16, 2012 in definition | 20 comments

How others use the word CHURCH… according to Google

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

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 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 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?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-16-2012

    I should think we can all agree that the way the word ‘church’ is used today is how we dread it the most: it refers to the countless, seemingly endless display of denominational man-made churches.

    It’s Sunday. “Hey, you going to church?”

    I’m a Christian. “Oh, so where do you go to church?”

    I’m a pastor. “Really? What’s the name of your church?”

    I’m a male stripper. “What do they think about that at your church?”

    You get my drift. Church has long ago stopped being about The Bride, and is now merely that which we (as in the non-caring masses) have all been desensitized to thanks to religious dogma and pop culture.

  2. 8-16-2012


    Interestingly, in the posts that I linked to and quoted above, very few of them used the term “church” the way you described. So, perhaps, at least for some of us, the meaning of the term “church” is changing to refer to God’s people instead of to the other things that you mentioned.


  3. 8-16-2012


    Your stance doesn’t reflect a return to what it should mean. It is more indicative of being where you should be in the first place, and it is others who have drifted. IN simpler terms, you ‘get it’ and have ‘gotten it’ from the get go, while others have decided to allow popular opinion to influence their understanding. I say this to our credit, of course!

    Notwithstanding, you and I both know that to the common man, ‘church’ means a dressed-up Sunday morning going to a building with a name that has long ago lost its meaning, listening to a man who probably doesn’t know our names, singing songs that we didn’t write, and shaking hands with people we would rather not. All in the name of American Christianity. Yikes.

  4. 8-16-2012


    Actually, the way that I understand and use the word “church” has changed drastically over the past 10 years, and even more over the past 5-6 years.


  5. 8-16-2012

    The ekklesia of Christ will become more and more visible, as the Lord “calls out” more and more of those who love Him. The Lord’s Ekklesias are seeds sewn the whole world over. Those who love Him and are currently bound and chained in the vain traditions of men, will be set free. Those who cling to worthless idols may forfeit the grace that could have been theirs. The shell “church” will no longer be able to do those things done in darkness, the light of day is shinning ever brighter.
    In this spiritual warfare, the devil thinks he has won, his strategy to use church to lead the whole earth astray has almost succeeded.

  6. 8-16-2012


    According to the articles above, many people (including myself) are not using the word “church” the way that you say they are.


  7. 8-16-2012

    “Church” is one of those loaded words with various meanings depending on the context. This leads to confusion in many minds as to what church really is.
    Because of this ambiguity, I try to avoid using the word. If I have to use it, I make it a point to specify in what way I am using it.

    I think most people understand that church is not a building. Off course, right after they make that kind of admission they will proceed to give you directions to their church!

  8. 8-16-2012


    “I think most people understand that church is not a building. Off course, right after they make that kind of admission they will proceed to give you directions to their church!”

    Oh, the humanity.

  9. 8-16-2012

    Bob and Donald,

    Many of the posts listed above mention that exact problem. Things are changing when it comes to how people use the term “church” (in some circles, at least).


  10. 8-16-2012

    If you check the etymology of the word church you will find it has nothing to do with Ekklesia what so ever. The word actually has its roots in the Greek “kyriakon” which does not actually appear in the New Testament at all. The definition of the word church in its original meaning is actually much closer to “the Lord’s house”. Therefore when people say “church is not the building, it is the people” they are actually wrong! Church IS the building. We need to stop doing church!

    Ekklesia on the other hand does mean “called out”, but let’s be careful about that even, in context. Ekklesia in the New Testament was a direct comparison with Roman political council assemblies. Therefore the purpose of using the word Ekklesia in the NT was to describe God’s people as political representatives of His Kingdom on earth. This is precisely the kind of reason that their existence was such a threat to the Roman Empire.

    I find the word church most unhelpful, I try to avoid it like the plague. I like any number of other descriptions such as: The Body of Christ; The Bride of Christ; A Royal Priesthood and a Holy Nation; God’s people; Ekklesia…. but church? Nah, let’s throw the word in the garbage heap with the stones from the temple that ws destroyed in 70 AD.

  11. 8-16-2012


    Many words change meanings over time, and many words have multiple meanings. “Church” is one of those terms. Like I’ve said before, I think it’s fine for you to choose to use others terms. I’m more concerned with how someone uses a term than which particular term they use.


  12. 8-16-2012

    Well said!

  13. 8-17-2012

    Alan, I appreciate how *you use the word. However there is an overwhelming tide of people who use it differently. I think it’s an uphill, fruitless battle to try to redefine the word church. The “church” and human empire are inextricably intertwined.

    Anyway, I will try to remember how you use the word. God bless you!

  14. 8-17-2012


    This post shows how the top search results in Google define the term “church.” I do not agree with all of the definition completely, but I think it shows that I’m not the only one who doesn’t use the term “church” to refer to a building or system or anything like that. I’ve never felt that teaching people what it means to live together as God’s children is a fruitless battle, and we need to do that regardless of what word we use.


  15. 8-17-2012

    Outside of defining each word each time, I am using the word “church” like the majority of the general public (those who we want to understand Jesus the most) would say we mean; A building, a institutional organization, or a denomination.
    As Jacques Ellul might say it may be best to describe the right revelation of Jesus the Anointed One as ‘X’. So ‘X’ was the original revelation of Jesus the Anointed One and the Fullness of the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul said, “After my departure ravenous wolves will come in and not spare the flock.” I propose these wolves are demonic spiritual forces. By the time Constantine controlled the public practice of faith in Christ, ‘X’ was no longer visible. Since that time the ‘kurikon’ or later “kirche’ and then ‘church’, even Christianity no longer represented ‘X’. This has been the case for over 1,700 years. The wolves are still in control of church, and the Christian religion in general. The way to discern this is simple, look at the fruit, a good tree ‘X’ can not bear bad fruit. When ‘X’ arises, and I contend that it is beginning right now, it will look like Acts 2-5, not like church. Perhaps, given the time that might be left on the clock of history, ‘X’ may not ever be subverted again.

  16. 8-17-2012


    In this post, we see that several people are using the term “church” in the same way that the New Testament authors used the term “ekklesia.” While it may be true that “majority of the general public” uses the term “church” in a different way, the trend appears to be changing. More and more people are using the term “church” in the way that I use it – i.e., not at all related to a building, institutional organization, or a denomination.

    Yes, I define the way that I use the term “church” because the word has multiple meanings. I also define the way that I use many other terms if I’m concerned that someone may misunderstand.

    When you use the term “ekklesia,” do you define it for people? Do you assume they know what you mean?

    By the way, back when I thought the term “church” as translated in Scripture referred to buildings, organizations, and denominations, I knew the Greek term “ekklesia” and used it in the same way.


  17. 8-17-2012

    When I use ekklesia for those who are not familiar with it , it gives me a wonderful opportunity to explain about the Lord and His called out community. When I say church, everyone expect the religiously trained, knows that it’s one the buildings where those who call themselves Christians meet for religious services. Because I understand that is what is most commonly called church, not by the religiously trained, but those who need Jesus. So “church” is an imposter organization that has subverted the cause of Christ and His Kingdom. I can say, we are not in agreement with those people who have done this to Jesus and His reputation, but we are other ___________. They are interested in what we have to say most of the time. To those who are religiously trained who know about the correct Greek term for the original text, I have only served to more clearly define What I mean when I say ekklesia. If they are unfamiliar, I get the same opportunity I do with outsiders.

  18. 8-17-2012


    Exactly. You explain and define just like I do.


  19. 8-20-2012

    The REAL Matrix:

    The Holy Spirit: At last. Welcome, Neo. As you no doubt have guessed, I am the Holy Spirit sent to teach you the Truth.
    Neo: It’s an honor to meet you.
    The Holy Spirit: I imagine that right now you’re feeling a bit like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole? Hm?
    Neo: You could say that.
    HS: I can see it in your heart. You have the heart of a man who can not accept what he sees in church because he knows it is not right.
    Neo: I know something is really wrong.
    Holy Spirit: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re open to me. You’re open because you know something. What you know you can’t explain. But you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something seriously wrong with church. You don’t know what it is but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?
    Neo: The entire subjugation of Christianity?
    Holy Spirit: Do you want to know how it was done? Church is an illusion. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
    Neo: What truth?
    Holy Spirit: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind…. Unfortunately, few can comprehend the world and its church system, the enormity of the deception. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed in the morning a get dressed for church, and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, and your spiritual eyes will be opened, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes…. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more…. Follow me

  20. 8-21-2012


    Quoting a movie does not help your position. I think it would be better if you would respond to what I am actually saying and to the points of disagreements that I bring up.



  1. CHURCH: In The Mouths Of The (Non)Religious, It Is Ugly « The Unapologetic Prophet - [...] particular post has come about due to Alan Knox.  He is to blame.  It started here, then went here, …