English blog

church or assembly?

11-11-2011 - Posted by Andre Piet

Most Bible translations use for the Greek word “ecclesia”, the word “church”. But as so often, this is not done concordantly (=consistently). Of the 118 occurrences of the word “ecclesia” in the NT (in the KJV), 115 times it is translated as “church” and 3 times as “assembly”. When it concerns a general meeting, the translators had difficulty rendering it as “church” and chose, instead, the word “assembly”*. Rightly so! But why have they not done this consistently? By translating it “church,” they have made the concept “ecclesia”, erroneously, into a church organization concept.  

Ecclesia = assembly

The people, who came together in Ephesus, were called an assembly (Acts 19:32,39). When this assembly was dismissed, it meant that the ‘ecclesia” was dissolved (Acts 19:41). Observe the difference between an “assembly” and a “church”! In Protestantism a “church” is not just an assembly or meeting [of people], but an organization with members and a board. The Bible does not reveal this practice. Nowhere do we read of a church council or brotherhood council, registered membership or something similar. The Bible speaks of “gathering together”, “coming together”. These are meetings that are supervised by men, whom Paul calls “supervisors”. A supervisor is a shepherd who leads the assembly into the green pastures of the Word of God (Acts 20:28). Please note: a supervisor gives leadership to an assembly; not to an organization or to individuals. That would be too domineering. Due to not knowing what an ecclesia is (namely, an assembly or meeting), faith communities easily fall prey to domineering leaders and councils. It is very much on purpose that we call the get-togethers of GoedBericht meetings. We are not “a church” (in the usual sense of the word) and we do not want to be that, either. We plan meetings in which the Good News is heralded loud and clear. Nothing less and nothing more.

*Ecclesia = assembly (of people): Acts 7:38; 19;32,39,41; Hebrews 12:23 Translations, such as the KJV, NIV, NASB, etc, which generally use the word “church” to translate the word “ecclesia”, chose for Acts 19:32,39,41 a different word: “assembly”.