A church is an association of people who share a particular belief system. The term church originated from Greek "karakion"  meaning "of the lord". The term later began to replace the Greek ekklesia and Basilicae within Christendom, c300 AD, though it was used by Christians before that time.
The Christian word "Church" is used erroneously for the Greek "εκκλησία" — ekklesia, ref. Strong's Concordance — 1577, Bauer's, Thayer's, and Moulton's) is mentioned in the New Testament. Of the 114 occurrences of the term in the New Testament, Three are found in the # ^ Gospel accounts, all spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my ekklesia, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Mt 16:18); and "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the ekklesia; and if he refuses to listen even to the ekklesia, let him be to you as the Gentile and the tax-collector" (Mt 18:17).
The Greek term εκκλησία — ekklesia, which literally means a "gathering or selection i.e. "eklectic" in English" or "called out assembly", was a governmental and political term, used to denote a national assembly, congregation, council of common objective (see Ecclesia (ancient Athens), Ecclesia (Church)) or a crowd of people who were assembled. It did not signify a "building".
The Christian use of this term has its direct antecedent in the Koine Greek translation of the Old Testament (see also Septuagint), where the noun ekklesia has been employed 96 times to denote the congregation of the Children of Israel, which Christians regard as a type of the "Body of Christ", as they also call the Christian Church of Christ.
Some minority traditions of Christianity have maintained that the word translated "church" in scripture most often properly refers to local bodies or assemblies. "Church" is a derivative of the Early Greek word "κυριακον", meaning Lord's house, which in English became "church". The Koine word for church is εκκλησία (ecclesia). Before Christian appropriation of the term, it was used to describe purposeful gatherings, including the assemblies of many Greek city states. Christians of this stripe maintain that a centralizing impulse in the church, present from the early days of the church through the rise of Constantine represented a departure from true Christianity. They therefore reject the authority of the Nicene Creed or the Apostles' Creed.
Many believe the Church, as described in the Bible, has a twofold character that can be described as the visible and invisible church. As the Church invisible, the church consists of all those from every time and place, who are vitally united to Christ through regeneration and salvation and who will be eternally united to Jesus Christ in eternal life. The Church visible consists of all those who visibly join themselves to a profession of faith and gathering together to know and serve the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. The visible church exists globally in all who identify themselves as Christians and locally in particular places where believers gather for the worship of God. The visible church may also refer to an association of particular churches from multiple locations who unite themselves under a common charter and set of governmental principles. The church in the visible sense is often governed by office-bearers carrying titles such as minister, pastor, teacher, elder, and deacon. Others make the claim that no reference to the church is ever made in the Bible that is not referring to a local visible body, such as the church in someone's house or the church as Ephesis. Those that make this claim believe that the term is sometimes used in an institutional sense in which the term refers to all of a certain type, meaning all of the local visible churches.
Church is taken by some to refer to a single, universal community, although others contend that the doctrine of the universal church was established until later. The doctrine of the universal, visible church was made explicit in the Apostles' Creed, while the less common Protestant notion of the universal, invisible church is not laid out explicitly until the Reformation. The universal church traditions generally espouse that the Church includes all who are baptized into her common faith, including the doctrines of the trinity, forgiveness of sins through the sacrificial action of Christ, and the resurrection of the body. These teachings are expressed in liturgy with the celebration of sacraments, visible signs of grace. They are passed down as the deposit of faith.
Major forms of church government include hierarchical (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodoxy), presbyterian (rule by elders), and independent (Baptist, charismatic, other forms of independency).
- ^ http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-9475%281890%2911%3A2%3C229%3AANEDOH%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Z&size=LARGE&origin=JSTOR-enlargePage
- Anderson, Robert A., Church of God? or the Temples of Satan: A reference book of Spiritual understanding and Gnosis, TGS Publishers, Texas, 2006. ISBN 0-9786249-6-3.
- Bannerman, James, The Church of Christ: A treatise on the nature, powers, ordinances, discipline and government of the Christian Church, Still Waters Revival Books, Edmonton, Reprint Edition May 1991, First Edition 1869.
- Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1994. See particularly Part 6: The Doctrine of the Church
- Kuiper, R.B., The Glorious Body of Christ, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1967
- Mannion, Gerard and Mudge, Lewis (eds.), The Routledge Companion to the Christian Church, 2007