Church, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Churched p. pr. & vb. n. Churching.] To bless according to a prescribed form, or to unite with in publicly returning thanks in church, as after deliverance from the dangers of childbirth; as, the churching of women.
1. A building set apart for Christian worship.
2. A Jewish or heathen temple. [Obs.]
3. A formally organized body of Christian believers worshiping together. “When they had ordained them elders in every church.”
4. A body of Christian believers, holding the same creed, observing the same rites, and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority; a denomination; as, the Roman Catholic church; the Presbyterian church.
5. The collective body of Christians.
6. Any body of worshipers; as, the Jewish church; the church of Brahm.
7. The aggregate of religious influences in a community; ecclesiastical influence, authority, etc.; as, to array the power of the church against some moral evil.
Remember that both church and state are properly the rulers of the people, only because they are their benefactors. --Bulwer.
Note: ☞ Church is often used in composition to denote something belonging or relating to the church; as, church authority; church history; church member; church music, etc.
Apostolic church. See under Apostolic.
Broad church. See Broad Church.
Catholic church or Universal church, the whole body of believers in Christ throughout the world.
Church of England, or English church, the Episcopal church established and endowed in England by law.
Church living, a benefice in an established church.
Church militant. See under Militant.
Church owl Zool., the white owl. See Barn owl.
Church rate, a tax levied on parishioners for the maintenance of the church and its services.
Church session. See under Session.
Church triumphant. See under Triumphant.
Church work, work on, or in behalf of, a church; the work of a particular church for the spread of religion.
Established church, the church maintained by the civil authority; a state church.
n 1: one of the groups of Christians who have their own beliefs
and forms of worship [syn: Christian church]
2: a place for public (especially Christian) worship; "the
church was empty" [syn: church building]
3: a service conducted in a church; "don't be late for church"
[syn: church service]
4: the body of people who attend or belong to a particular
local church; "our church is hosting a picnic next week"
v : perform a special church rite or service for; "church a
woman after childbirth"
Derived probably from the Greek kuriakon (i.e., "the Lord's
house"), which was used by ancient authors for the place of
In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word
ecclesia, which is synonymous with the Hebrew _kahal_ of the Old
Testament, both words meaning simply an assembly, the character
of which can only be known from the connection in which the word
is found. There is no clear instance of its being used for a
place of meeting or of worship, although in post-apostolic times
it early received this meaning. Nor is this word ever used to
denote the inhabitants of a country united in the same
profession, as when we say the "Church of England," the "Church
of Scotland," etc.
We find the word ecclesia used in the following senses in the
New Testament: (1.) It is translated "assembly" in the ordinary
classical sense (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
(2.) It denotes the whole body of the redeemed, all those whom
the Father has given to Christ, the invisible catholic church
(Eph. 5:23, 25, 27, 29; Heb. 12:23).
(3.) A few Christians associated together in observing the
ordinances of the gospel are an ecclesia (Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15).
(4.) All the Christians in a particular city, whether they
assembled together in one place or in several places for
religious worship, were an ecclesia. Thus all the disciples in
Antioch, forming several congregations, were one church (Acts
13:1); so also we read of the "church of God at Corinth" (1 Cor.
1:2), "the church at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1), "the church of
Ephesus" (Rev. 2:1), etc.
(5.) The whole body of professing Christians throughout the
world (1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Matt. 16:18) are the church of
The church visible "consists of all those throughout the world
that profess the true religion, together with their children."
It is called "visible" because its members are known and its
assemblies are public. Here there is a mixture of "wheat and
chaff," of saints and sinners. "God has commanded his people to
organize themselves into distinct visible ecclesiastical
communities, with constitutions, laws, and officers, badges,
ordinances, and discipline, for the great purpose of giving
visibility to his kingdom, of making known the gospel of that
kingdom, and of gathering in all its elect subjects. Each one of
these distinct organized communities which is faithful to the
great King is an integral part of the visible church, and all
together constitute the catholic or universal visible church." A
credible profession of the true religion constitutes a person a
member of this church. This is "the kingdom of heaven," whose
character and progress are set forth in the parables recorded in
The children of all who thus profess the true religion are
members of the visible church along with their parents. Children
are included in every covenant God ever made with man. They go
along with their parents (Gen. 9:9-17; 12:1-3; 17:7; Ex. 20:5;
Deut. 29:10-13). Peter, on the day of Pentecost, at the
beginning of the New Testament dispensation, announces the same
great principle. "The promise [just as to Abraham and his seed
the promises were made] is unto you, and to your children" (Acts
2:38, 39). The children of believing parents are "holy", i.e.,
are "saints", a title which designates the members of the
Christian church (1 Cor. 7:14). (See BAPTISM.)
The church invisible "consists of the whole number of the
elect that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under
Christ, the head thereof." This is a pure society, the church in
which Christ dwells. It is the body of Christ. it is called
"invisible" because the greater part of those who constitute it
are already in heaven or are yet unborn, and also because its
members still on earth cannot certainly be distinguished. The
qualifications of membership in it are internal and are hidden.
It is unseen except by Him who "searches the heart." "The Lord
knoweth them that are his" (2 Tim. 2:19).
The church to which the attributes, prerogatives, and promises
appertaining to Christ's kingdom belong, is a spiritual body
consisting of all true believers, i.e., the church invisible.
(1.) Its unity. God has ever had only one church on earth. We
sometimes speak of the Old Testament Church and of the New
Testament church, but they are one and the same. The Old
Testament church was not to be changed but enlarged (Isa.
49:13-23; 60:1-14). When the Jews are at length restored, they
will not enter a new church, but will be grafted again into
"their own olive tree" (Rom. 11:18-24; comp. Eph. 2:11-22). The
apostles did not set up a new organization. Under their ministry
disciples were "added" to the "church" already existing (Acts
(2.) Its universality. It is the "catholic" church; not
confined to any particular country or outward organization, but
comprehending all believers throughout the whole world.
(3.) Its perpetuity. It will continue through all ages to the
end of the world. It can never be destroyed. It is an