'Church' Shouldn't Be in the Bible

'Church' Shouldn't Be in the Bible March 19, 2015

It’s a conspiracy theory a thousand years in the making. When you think of a ‘church,’ you probably think of an address, a building, a worship service. But that was never Jesus’ intention. If you’re familiar with the Bible, then you know the climactic story when Jesus launched the ‘church.’ He was with his disciples and asked them who they thought he was. Here was Peter’s incredible response:

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:16-18

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There it is. Black and white (or red letters if you’ve got that kind of Bible). Jesus inaugurated the ‘church.’ The only problem is, the word ‘church’ shouldn’t be in the Bible. The original Greek word is ekklesia, which literally means “assembly” or “gathering.” It was an abrupt departure from the Old Testament model where religion was centered on a place (the temple). Jesus said that his assembly, his gathering, would be centered not on a place of worship, but on a person.

So why don’t our English Bibles have the word “assembly” or “gathering”? Where does the word “church” come from? “Church” derives not from a biblical Greek word, but from the medieval German word “kirche,” which literally means “house of the Lord.” What’s the significance? Jesus came to abolish the old temple model where religion was centered around a place. But by the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church had reintroduced the temple model with religion centering around holy places and towering cathedrals. ‘Church’ was literally a place you went to.

When William Tyndale (who was the first to translate the Bible into the English language in 1526) came to this Greek word ekklesia, he had the audacity to translate it “congregation,” honoring the truth that Jesus came to institute something centered not around a location, but around a group of people called to a specific purpose. For this audacity, William Tyndale was burned at the stake but the ‘Church’.

Unfortunately, the concept of ‘church’ had already been ingrained in popular culture and further translations (most notably the King James Version created by a king who controlled the houses of worship in England) reverted to the word ‘church’. And hence came the popular idea that the church is a location, a place you go to. But simply put, that was never the intent. Jesus did not come to institute a religion centered around a location. He came to institute a movement, an assembly, a gathering of people centered around Him. Buildings, cathedrals, steeples, sanctuaries, church buildings, are all inconsequential.

The church has never been the building. It’s always been the people. Don’t fall for the conspiracy.

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  • Kerri

    Good one. I’m trying to read some of your writings and teachings to determine if you adhere to gods word or if you integrate yeast into the dough like some popular growing churches that tickle the fickle ear but preach apostacy. Some false teachers are very well versed but deliberately malign the word of God, ridiculing believers, worshiping degrees rather than the Deity of Christ alone, glorifying science, denouncing judgement, refusing to call sin sin, Hopefully you don’t take offense. We must test the spirits. It is heartbreaking to see a falling away from scripture. However, I’ve read 3-4 articles and believe Gods truth is represented well so for those I am sharpened. Thank you. Perhaps you can respond with your frank stance on these matters such as heaven, hell, repentance, authority of scripture, sovereignty of God, creation…. Loved to hear your heart. One thing that did both me is a conformity for younger generations which seemingly alienates, isolates, and out dates the wisdom and heritage of our older citizens within Gods Kingdom. I’m nearing my mid forties and long for the hymns of old and the reverence that seems to be discarded for the sake of setting a comfy couch. I am not ashamed of a ” David” dancing before The Lord, pretence & performance however is a turn off. Numbers and lights mean nothing if its on the wide path that leads to destruction. Okay- I just wanted to be a little more clone rabble since I’m asking you for a missions statement so to speak. Thanks for your time and may God richly bless you.