What is the Ecclesia?

Jay Forrest

"since you are striving after spiritual gifts, seek to excel in them for building up the church" (1 Corinthians 14:12).
Most Christian don’t know their own identity. They don’t know what the Ecclesia is. Ecclesia is usually translated as "church."

What would you answer if I asked you, “Where do you go to church?” The question would not be strange at all. You would answer that you go to such and such church at a particular address. To most people, a church is a building that one goes to on Sundays. Or Saturdays if you are a Seventh-day Adventist.

The Greek word for “church” is ekklesia, which is brought over into English as Ecclesia. And it does not mean a building. As the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica explains, ecclesia refers to a “gathering of those summoned.” Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says the word literally means the “called out ones.”

Ecclesia refers to an organism, not an organization. Ecclesia can refer to the local gathering of Christians or the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth. It sometimes includes, says The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, “the assembly of faithful Christians already dead and received into heaven.” 

For this reason, I prefer using the word “Ecclesia” instead of the word “Church” when referring to the children of God in Christ. When we confess that I believe in "the holy catholic Church,” we are really referring to the true Christian everywhere, irrespective of their labels. The Ecclesia is the gathering of those summoned by God.

And in the passage above, the Apostle Paul says, concerning spiritual gifts, that we should "try to excel in those that build up the church." Clearly he is not talking about encouraging a building, but the people of God. We don't go to church, we are the church. We are the called-out ones summoned by God. 

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Jay N. Forrest is an Anglican mystic pursuing God through prayer, meditation, simplicity, solitude, and silence. He is the author of The Deeper Life: Finding God on the Mystic Path.

Jay N. Forrest was an ordained Pentecostal minister for over two decades. He earned his doctorate of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Christian University. He has deeply explored many philosophical and religious traditions and is certified to teach mindfulness meditation.

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