The discussion surrounding ekklesia and church can be confusing. Many still believe that the word ‘church’ is the English word that was translated from the Greek word, ekklesia. At one time, I was among that group. Now the facts are coming out. But the question remains among most believers, "What is the difference between church and ekklesia?"
Ekklesia and church are not the same – in definition or purpose. The word ‘church’ in the bible, specifically the King James Version, is a willful mistranslation of ekklesia. This fact bears repeating over and over again. Church and ekklesia are not the same.
As believers come to grips with this truth, it will force a change in the way we function as a called-out body of believers. You cannot be both. You will be one or the other. This is more than the differences in definition, but includes a new reality for nearly every aspect of Christianity.
God intended a called-out body of believers who would enact and enforce the Kingdom of Heaven policies into the earth
The bottom line is that we are not, and should have never become churches. That is not what Jesus intended. That is not what He said a Caesarea Philippi (even though I imagine your bible uses the word church). God intended a called-out body of believers who would enact and enforce Kingdom of Heaven policies into the earth.
Rather than delving into the literal definitions of ekklesia and church, I believe it is appropriate to visit and contrast some of the practical differences of these two words. This understanding will show you how you can potentially live out ekklesia in your day to day life. In my book, Leaving Church Becoming Ekklesia, I provide a graph that contrasts fourteen specific areas. How does ‘the church’ generally view each area, and how is the same area expressed in the ekklesia.
In this blog I will highlight four of these comparisons.
1. Jesus Christ In the church system, Jesus is often portrayed in light of the organizations doctrinal distinction. Denominations have often made Jesus appear to support their beliefs, causing unbelievers to stay away. On the other hand, the only access into the ekklesia
is by confessing that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God. This is accepting Him for who He is, not who we want Him to be (1Corinthians 15:1-8).
2. Scripture The chapters and verses were added to scripture in the 13th and 14th centuries. Whereas this makes it easy for us
to find certain passages, it has also created a problem where scriptures are often quoted out of context. Verses are used to drive religious points of view, or worse, to assassinate the character of someone. This is unchallenged behavior in the church realm. As we embrace ekklesia, scripture MUST only be applied to further the Kingdom of God in the earth. Context is critical in order to ascertain what the Lord is saying to us.
3. Word of God Why do I separate the concept of scripture usuage and the Word of God? With scripture, I emphasize how we manipulate it to prove our beliefs. When I speak of the Word of God, I am reflecting on our response to what we read. Some may see this as semantics, but allow me to explain. In the church, most believers are content with being hearer’s of the Word. They hear it, and it goes no further. In the ekklesia, believers are continually looking for ways to DO the word. In other words, “How do I live out what I see in scripture?” 4. Doctrine Linked extremely close to scripture usage, and tied closely to our response to the Word of God, is how doctrine is applied. The first century believers only knew the Doctrines of Christ (Hebrews 6:1-3), and generally followed the apostles doctrine (Acts 2:42). Ultimately it was often reported that the believers were of one heart, and one soul (Acts 2:44-46; 4:32; 5:12). Yet, they were only divided by geography, not doctrine. Today, scriptures have been cut and pasted together to form doctrinal distinctions that have divided the Body Christ into thousands of denominations. It is imperative that the ekklesia return to the values in the Word of God, where the power of God is demonstrated through everyday believers. Otherwise, it too will be reduced to another fruitless denomination.
I hope these four categories I’ve shared will help you to see that there is difference between church and ekklesia. Other categories you may want to compare between church and ekklesia include evangelism, prayer, ministry gifts, leadership, how we gather, buildings, giving among other categories you may interject.
A friend of mine recently shared that we are on the verge a reformation that could eclipse the reformation of the 16th century. If he is correct, and I tend to believe he is, then everything we know about ‘church’ will be challenged. TLK
Tim Kurtz is the founder of The Ekklesia Center developed to help believers desiring to pursue New Testament values and structure. He teaches extensively on what the impact the mistranslation of the Greek word ekklesia to the English word church has had on the Body of Christ. He has served in numerous capacities in the 'church system' including being a Pastor for over 25 years. He is the author of several books and the primary contributor to the EKKLESIAInsights Blog. Tim is also the host of Good Morning Ekklesia, broadcast live on Facebook. In these daily Study Starters he provides key information that believers can use to study ekklesia deeper. He and his wife Carolyn have been married 46 years and live in Michigan. They have two adult children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.