Ekklesia is Secular!


All my relatives and most of my family belong either to
Churches of Christ or the Christian Church. The other day I received the following from local pastor from my relatives Christian Church in the mailbox.

The Church….An Assembly of People

All organizations, political, religious or social from the time to time hold meetings of their members. But, so as far as I know, the church is the only organization in which the assembling of its members played such a dominant role in its nature, that the institution itself became known “far an d wide” by the simple designation “the assembly”. And, of course, the eman of the term ekklesia (church). The word ekklesia was commonly used among Greek-speaking people of the first century to identify a group or gathering of people. Even in the New Testament that word is used not only to identify the collective body of Christ, but to indicate any non-religious gathering as well (Acts 19:32-41). In some it is to be regretted that the English word “church” has evolved into a sacred term used only with a religious affiliation. Robbing the term of its secular significance has contributed, in large measure to divesting it of much of its real meaning, when applied to the people of God. It is all too easy for us to forget that the being together, assembling as a united body of people, is at the very heart and soul of the church. When we look at the activities of the ekklesia in the New Testament as a corporate body of people, whether large or small, the impression of a “regular” and well established pattern of meetings is reconfirmed and enhanced (Acts 11:26,14:27, 1 Coritnhians 11 and 14, Colossians 4:15, Philemon 2, Ephesians 4:4). In 1 Cor 11:18 Paul says the believers should “come together as a Church” certainly has nothing to do with the location as such. The idea of church as a “building” is completely foreign to the New Testaments. Whether in the Assembly (ekklesia) or in the marketplace Christians were the church (the body of Christ disciples) individually or collectively. Four more times Paul used the term ekklesia as he gave instructions to the disciples at Corinth concerning individual as well as corporate conduct. These instructions were not intended to regulate just any gathering of two or more people but refer to the time when disciples gathered to worship. There was beyond a doubt among early disciples, the understanding of a certain gathering (assembly) which by its nature and purpose was distinct, special, particular, and regular. It was not possible to separate one’s daily life from that corporate life…Next time we will look at specific facets of the assembly.

Pastor Smith, Minister

I have a lot trouble with this issue. What is this big protestant concern about secular meaning of the term so important to them? I have no double they think this some how detrimental to Catholicism because I know there are very subtle anti-catholic since they offer Church History clases on Sunday nights where they cover 300 A.D to 1515 in about 2 minutes.

I frequently get challenged by relatives based the above argument on Ekklesia. Where and what could better inform my reading on the Catholic view of the Church.


the word Ekklesia simply means “a called out assembly” the word appears 118 times in the NT, 115 times it is translated “church” and three times it is translated “assembly”. all three time it is translated “assembly” are found in acts 19 and refer to a mob gathered at Ephesus


Yes, the word “Church” comes from the wod “ekklesia” which means “assembly”. In Scripture, it is used for both individual, particular assemblies (Rom 16:5; Acts 8:1; Acts 13:1; 1 & 2 Thes 1:1) AND for the universal community of believers (Mt 16:18; Acts 20:28; Gal 1:13; Eph 1:22; Eph 5:23 f.; Phil 3:6; Col 1:18; 1 Tm 3:15).

Lamenting the “lost secular significance” of the word for “church” makes about as much sense as lamenting the “lost secular significance” of the wedding ring, or anything else that Christianity has borrowed from secular or pagan culture. Throughout history, the Church frequently adopts something that has secular significance and “christianizes” it. That should be celebrated, not lamented.

Recommended Resources on the Church:

Church Documents:
[list]*]Catechism of the Catholic Church: CCC 748-975
*]Mystici Corporis Christi (The Mystical Body of Christ) by Pope Pius XII (Jun 29, 1943)
*]Ecclesiam Suam (On the Church) by Pope Paul VI (Aug 6, 1964)
*]Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) - Vatican II (Nov 21, 1964)
*]Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) - Vatican II (Dec 7, 1965)
*]Catechesis on the Creed: The Church by John Paul II (Wednesday audiences: Jul 10, 1991 - Aug 30, 1995)
*]Dominus Iesus (On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Aug 6, 2000)[/list]

Online resources:
[list]*]The Church in the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia
*]Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth - Catholic Answers booklet[/list]

[list]*]Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)[/list]

This might be a lot of info, but I always like to err on the side of more rather than less. :wink: So, hopefully at least some of the resources may be useful to you. I particularly recommend the Catechism, the Catholic Answers booklet, John Paul II’s Catechesis on the Creed, and Ratzinger’s book “Called to Communion”.


This is my favorite quote about the Church. It’s from Cardinal John Henry Newman (in the mid 1800s):

“Trust the Church of God implicitly even when your natural judgment would take a different course from hers and would induce you to question her prudence or correctness. Recollect what a hard task she has; how she is sure to be criticized and spoken against, whatever she does; recollect how much she needs your loyal and tender devotion; recollect, too, how long is the experience gained in 1800 years; and what a right she has to claim your assent to principles which have had so extended and triumphant a trial. Thank her that she has kept the faith safe for so many generations and do your part in helping her to transmit it to generations after you.”


**Everything begins as secular; there is nothing intrinsically holy about being called Jesus. And the word Bible is from the Greek for “the books” - Greek didn’t float down from Heaven. ****So there is no reason why this so-called argument should cause you a moment’s trouble. **


Did I read it wrong or did the pastor in the above letter seem to actually be supporting the Catholic understanding of ekklesia as a visible, organized society, rather some invisible, scattered group?


I think I know what this all about :slight_smile:

ISTM these links may be behind this “secular” thing:
*]barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?P…ResourceID=309[/LIST]“Pagan Christianity” is a recent book which has caused quite a stir - & been widely discussed on weblogs such as:
*]nathangann.com/?p=90[/LIST]A read of these - especially of those first two at the top - should help you to work out whether this book is behind what you’ve mentioned. Why not ask your relatives what they mean ?

There is a discussion of that book here:
*]forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=3395060[/LIST]BTW - it seems to be concerned not with Catholicism, but with US Protestantism. This seems to be the best place to go to for information on it:


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