Easter has come and gone, and I am chewing on something which has bugged me for decades. The building where I yesterday attended Resurrection Sunday worship was overflowing with people in attendance, people standing in all the aisles and folding chairs even set up outside (weather was accommodating here in California, don’t you know!). Let me be clear that I am happy so many people came to worship on the day that we celebrate Jesus having left the tomb and “turned our world inside out” as my pastor Dr. Paul Detterman said in his Easter sermon. His point was that the tomb had been “inverted” — death back into the world of the living, darkness into light! I hope and pray that seeds were planted which will fill the pews, aisles, and outside folding chairs next week too!
What is bugging me today is linguistic: the phrase Going to Church.
The following blog content notwithstanding, I confess to having used “the church” improperly myself, even though I have known what I share today since my undergraduate days in a Christian college where I spent hours loving to study New Testament Greek. The Greek word translated “church” is ekklesia from which we get the transliterated English word “ecclesiastic,” etc. The Christians in the biblical book of Acts were referred to as being ekklesia. Indeed, we rightly describe Acts as “the history of the church.”
Ekklesia comes from two words, the little preposition ek which means “out of” and the verb kaleo which means “to call out.” “The church” is therefore, literally, “the called-out ones.” Therefore, “the church” is NOT a building, “the church” is the people who gather to worship! Hence, linguistically it is incorrect to ever say, I am Going to Church since, the fact is, I and my fellow worshippers are the church! That is what bugs me, has for decades.
The first century Christians likely never once described their times of worship as Going to Church and neither should we. I have said all of the above to say this: the world will not be changed by us Going to Church. The world will be changed by the church being the church, being “the called-out ones,” leaving their building and taking the good news of the gospel into the world.
Here’s a hint which has helped me be linguistically correct on this issue: next time you find yourself preparing to say you are Going to Church, try this awkward yet correct phrase instead, I am going to the “church’s building!” If someone is listening, they may question you, which just might allow you the opportunity to explain ekklesia, and “the called-out ones.”
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2 thoughts on “Going to Church”
SPOT ON! The early church understanding of community, life, and worship really needs to find a way in our lives today. We have a blueprint for this called the Sermon on the Mount along with MT 25. in an emerging world of technology, societal change is occurring, and I think we will see a new focus on spirituality within the community.
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I think you have made an important Biblically correct distinction that the word church refers to Christian people, not buildings. When Christians say “I love my church” may they mean “I love the precious fellow Christians with whom I regularly meet,”
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