I believe that the word "church" is out of harmony with the word of God and would like to define my reasoning herein. The word "church" is often spoken of as translating the word ekklesia, but according to any number of scholars, that isn't true. The scholars seem to be at variance as to just what the word "church" translates, whether the Greek word "kuriakon" or the Latin word "kirk," but all seem to agree that its source is something other than ekklesia. Therefore, the definition has to be different than ekklesia. Ekklesia is defined as "called out or forth; a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly" (Thayers Greek English Lexicon); and "from, out of, a calling" therefore an assembly (W.E. Vine). Now let us look at some present day definitions.
The definition of the word "church" as given in The World Book Dictionary is much too long to be put down here, but throughout its entirety the meaning refers to a building or persons as pertaining to religion. In contrast, in the same dictionary the word "assembly" is defined as people gathering, with no signification as to what they are gathering for. The word "assembly" always needs a context or some word connected to it to convey the usage. Just which of these words better suits what was in the mind of God, by the usage of ekklesia in the New Testament?
The word "ekklesia" (assembly) has no religious significance as we can see by Acts 19:32, 39, 41. The word "church" definitely does since, by definition, it means a religious organization, building, people or denomination. To put it another way, could we translate Acts 19:32 to read: "for the church was confused;" or again in verse 39: "it shall be determined in a legal church"? If the words "church" and "assembly" both translate the word ekklesia then shouldn't we be able to use them interchangeably without changing the meaning of any passage? Is the sense of the two verses above changed by the substitution? I believe we would agree that it is changed in both instances. Therefore, is there any way that we can supplant the words used by the Holy Spirit with other words that mean something entirely different and be pleasing to God?
The word "baptize" is defined by The World Book Dictionary as "to dip into water or sprinkle with water, as a sign of the washing away of sin and of admission into the Christian church." By contrast, the word "immerse," in the same dictionary, is defined as "1. to put completely under a liquid: plunge into a liquid; soak thoroughly. 2. to baptize by dipping (a person) under water." Just which of these two words - "sprinkle" or "immerse" - convey the idea in the mind of God in the New Testament?
In talking with any number of persons about these words, the reply usually is, concerning the word "church," "That is only semantics, everyone knows the meaning of the word church." But when it comes to the word "baptism" most agree that an explanation is in order. The question is, do we really understand what the word "ekklesia" means when we use the word "church" or are we fooling ourselves? "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
The modern day usage of the word "church" is detrimental to the teaching of the New Testament. We often say that Christ died for the church, quoting Acts 20:28, Eph. 5:25, and others. Do we mean that Christ died for an organization? Grant that some may have the right understanding when using the word "church," but does the world around us? Who, but them, are we to evangelize? How can we talk to someone who doesn't understand what we are saying?
Conclusion: "And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2). If we use words that the world uses which are contrary to God's revelation, aren't we being conformed to the world? But, if we use the words that the Holy Spirit used, isn't this a part of being "transformed by the renewing of our minds," that we might prove to any one the "perfect will of God." Peter said: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God" (I Pet. 4:11). Therefore, why don't we who are Christians, the children of God, begin to use "assembly" and "immerse," words that can't be misunderstood? This would be a grand beginning showing forth that we are "...a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people" (I Pet. 2:9).