Our fellowship meets in homes (nothing magical about that — it’s just what we do), but I thought you might enjoy this photograph of a historic Norwegian church building situated at the west end of Rapid City. It isn’t an ecclesia; it’s a building. Still, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?
For those of you not intimately involved in our fellowship, you may be wondering why I would use such a goofy name for our church. I’m a lover of words, and using the correct word is important to me. Here’s some etymology for the word “church” from Easton’s Bible Dictionary:
Church: Derived probably from the Greek kuriakon (i.e., “the Lord’s house”), which was used by ancient authors for the place of worship.
And here’s a little more from Smith’s Bible Dictionary:
1. The derivation of the word is generally said to be from the Greek kuriakon, “belonging to the Lord”. But the derivation has been too hastily assumed. It is probably connected with kirk, the Latin circus, circulus, the Greek kuklos, (kuklos), because the congregations were gathered in circles.
2. Ecclesia, the Greek word for church, originally meant an assembly called out by the magistrate, or by legitimate authority. It was, in this last sense, that the word was adapted and applied by the writers of the New Testament to the Christian congregation.
The word used in the New Testament for “church” is “ecclesia,” which means simply a called-out or appointed assembly, like a town council or a board of directors or a staff meeting. Jesus told Peter, “On this rock I will build My ecclesia.” This is an assembly that Jesus Himself has called out and appointed, and which belongs to Him.
I suppose either “church” or “ecclesia” or even the more trendy “ekklesia” are appropriate words. I like ekklesia because “church” to me often means a building. If you asked me, I would have said, “The church is not a building; the church is the people,” but when I drive by a place of worship, I have to remind myself to call it a “church building” rather than a “church.” How many times have I said, “I need to stop by the church,” even though I knew I would need to use my key because no one would be there? So I feel that the use of the word “church” to refer to a building is so ingrained in me that it’s easier to use a different word. Besides all that, the church is neither a building nor the people. A church or ekklesia is the people as one body, with Christ as their head. But we’re talking about words, not doctrine, so I’ll save that for later.
The word “assembly,” which is what “ecclesia” means, has been used in so many denominational names that “assembly” doesn’t really work for me. Besides this, it is rather non-specific as to the type of assembly (as it was also in the Greek). I want a more specific word. The word “ecclesia” to me smacks of towering cathedrals and funny hats and gold-trimmed robes. I don’t know why — it just does. So I like “ekklesia” or “gathering.” Gathering sounds kind of new age (probably only to me), so I’ve settled on ekklesia most of the time. For variety however, I may also use “gathering” or “fellowship” or even “assembly,” , so don’t give me a hard time if I use the “wrong” word. I’m neither that consistent nor that dogmatic. 😉