I have been doing some study recently on what the bible teaches about the Church as part of my journey away from the Institutional Church. I started of course with my Strong's and looked at the possible definitions of the Greek word ekklesia, the word that is translated "church" in our modern Bible. Strong's gives the following definitions of the word when used in the "Christian sense":
1) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
2) a company of Christian, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order's sake
3) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company and are united into one body
4) the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth
Definition 1 seems to be the generic definition of a church, while definition 2 defines what most of us would call an institutional church. For my purposes, I decided to focus on definitions 3 and 4 as I feel they are closest to what the authors of the NT were thinking most often when they used the word church. For the purposes of my writing, though, I think we should maybe change these definitions up a little bit. Perhaps they would look a little like this:
3) Those believers, in any particular city, village, or singular location who regularly come together to be reflections of God's love and grace to one another and their world. This may be done through worship, fellowship, Bible teaching, loving, sharing, or serving. This gathering may take place in any location or any number of locations and may or may not be associated with a particular building or meeting place.
4) The whole body of Christ, comprised of those who believe, wherever they may be found or wherever they may travel on the earth.
In this series of discussions, I am going to explore some of the ways that an incorrect understanding has been used and misused. Many in the institutional church have hidden behind "proof texts" and poorly interpreted verses in support of their own agendas. My own view (at least my view now), is that the church is not limited to any one or number of specific locations, that it is not defined by religious practices or rites, and that it is more inclusive than nearly anyone in the institutional church would want you to believe.
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