The word church – ekklesia – should be assembly or a suitable synonym. Ekklesia comes from two Greek words “ek”, out of, and “kaleo”, to call. It was used 100 times in the LXX before it was ever used in the NT. The meaning throughout is consistent in both – assembly. Jewish usage gradually shifted towards “sunagoge”, thus in English synagogue. Perhaps this contributed to the adoption by NT writers to adopt ekkesia as the dominant NT word for Christians as a whole and as separate groups. I don’t know. But regardless ekklesia was used in the NT for both individual assemblies and the assembly of all followers of Jesus, thus it is used in both the singular and the plural and does double service. It is unfortunate that “kuriokos” (definition: belonging to the Lord) became a substitute word in place of ekklesia. It has led to much confusion. It is this substitute word that is the source of our English word “church”. Kuriokos is used twice in the NT. As an example it is the word “Lord’s” in 1 Cor 11:20 (the Lord’s supper”). The other example comes from Rev 1:10 (the Lord’s day”). Kuriokos is an entirely different Greek word than ekklesia, yet our word church is transliterated from kuriokos and has no relation at all to ekklesia, the word the Holy Spirit chose. This is just another example of ecclesiastical words being retained to protect traditional ideas quite foreign to NT revelation. But this one is doubly tragic since whereas a word like baptism is at least a transliteration of the original Greek word, the word church is not only a transliteration but it is transliterated from an entirely different Greek word not found in the verse in which it is forced. Brother Hugo McCord understood this and in his translation he consistently used assembly. As more translations have been made I have long hoped that one would divorce itself from the traditional eccesiasticisms, but alas, it has not happened.
Equally important is to delineate between the etymology and the definition of a word. They are two separate matters. The etymology of a word is often not the meaning of a word. Take the word “confer” – it is derived from “con” together and “fer” to carry. But confer does not mean to carry together. Or consider the word “importance”, which comes from “im”, in, and the word “port” which is another Latin word meaning to carry. But the word importance does not mean to carry in. I mention this because ekklesia means assembly. Its etymology is “to call out”. Over the years I have listened to speakers tell people that the meaning of ekklesia is “to call out” and from there they move into all kinds of applications. I am reluctant to mention this but ekklesia does not mean “to call out”. That is its etymology, not its meaning. When the word was used in the LXX and the NT, its meaning was at the time best translated into English as “assembly”. This simple meaning can be seen in its use in Acts 19. In verse 32 a “mob” had gathered shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. It was an angry, out-of-control assembly. In verse 35 the town clerk quieted the mob and told them the issue could be settled in a “regular assembly”, one properly called together, verse 39. He then dismissed the “assembly”, the now quiet mob, verse 40. No one would assign “church” or “the called out” to any of these verses because it wouldn’t fit, but more so because neither is the meaning of the word ekklesia.