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Ecclesiology (from Greek ἐκκλησίᾱ, ekklēsiā, "congregation, church"; and -λογία, -logia) is the theological study of the Christian church. Specific areas of concern include the church's origin, its relationship to Jesus Christ, its role in salvation, its discipline, its destiny, and its leadership.

Since different ecclesiologies give shape to very different institutions, ecclesiology may also refer to a particular church or denomination’s character, self-described or otherwise. This is the sense of the word in such phrases as Roman Catholic ecclesiology, Lutheran ecclesiology, and ecumenical ecclesiology.


Ecclesiology comes from the Greek ἐκκλησία (ekklesia), which entered Latin as ecclesia. In the Greco-Roman world, the word was used to refer to a lawful assembly, or a called legislative body. As early as Pythagoras, the word took on the additional meaning of a community with shared beliefs.[] This is the meaning taken in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint), and later adopted by the Christian community to refer to the assembly of believers.[]

Issues addressed by ecclesiology

  • Who is the Church? Is it a visible or earthly corporation or a unified, visible society—a "church" in the sense of a specific denomination or institution, for instance? Or is it the body of all believing Christians (see invisible church) regardless of their denominational differences and disunity? What is the relationship between living Christians and departed Christians (the "cloud of witnesses") -- do they (those on Earth and those in Heaven) constitute together the Church?
An appreciation of who the church is starts out from the observation of a visible group of people who gather together in a certain place to worship Jesus and extends to see the relationship of this group of people to people elsewhere who also gather together to worship Jesus. The Church is thus an interpersonal community related to the very person of Jesus Christ.
  • Must one join a church? That is, what is the role of corporate worship in the spiritual lives of believers? Is it in fact necessary? Can salvation be found outside of formal membership in a given faith community, and what constitutes "membership?" (Baptism? Formal acceptance of a creed? Regular participation?)
As soon as someone has fellowship with someone else he can be said to be in a Church as the original meaning of Church is derived from assembly.
  • What is the authority of the Church? Who gets to interpret the doctrines of the Church? Is the organizational structure itself, either in a single corporate body, or generally within the range of formal church structures, an independent vehicle of revelation or of God's grace? Or is the Church's authority instead dependent on and derivative of a separate and prior divine revelation external to the organization, with individual institutions being "the Church" only to the extent that they teach this message? For example, is the Bible a written part of a wider revelation entrusted to the Church as faith community, and therefore to be interpreted within that context? Or is the Bible the revelation itself, and the Church is to be defined as a group of people who claim adherence to it?
The teaching authority of the Church can never go against the Bible as the Church has already asserted that the Bible is divinely inspired.
  • What does the Church do? What are the sacraments, divine ordinances, and liturgies, in the context of the Church, and are they part of the Church's mission to preach the Gospel? What is the comparative emphasis and relationship between worship service, spiritual formation, and mission, and is the Church's role to create disciples of Christ or some other function? Is the Church to be understood as the vehicle for salvation, or the salvific presence in the world, or as a community of those already "saved?"
The Church is submissive the word of God. One may attend a local "Church" but not be part of the actual Church of God. The Church is made up of individuals who are part of the whole worldwide Church, thus why the scripture warns of false teachers and false prophets within the ranks of the Church. The mission of the Church is to obey the words of Christ, reach lost souls with a message of repentance and belief in Christ, to preach and uphold the truth, to warn of God's impending judgement, and exemplify forgiveness and the love of God towards other Church members.
  • How should the Church be governed? What was the mission and authority of the Apostles, and is this handed down through the sacraments today? What are the proper methods of choosing leadership, and what is their role within the context of the Church? Is an ordained clergy necessary? Who are the leaders of a church? Must there be a policy-making board of "leaders" within a church and what are the qualifications for this position, and by what process do these members become official, ordained "leaders"? Must leaders and clergy be "ordained," and is this possible only by those who have been ordained by others?
A leader of the Church is one whom is chosen by God to govern. The qualifications for leadership are clearly set out in scripture - Leaders (1 Timothy 3:2-12; Titus 1:6-9). Overseers (1 Timothy 3:2-7). Elders (Titus 1:6-9). Deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-12)

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