The words “church” and “churches” occur over 110 times in the King James Version. Other translations also use these terms. The Greek word translated “church” literally means “a calling forth,” or, in other words, a gathering of people. For example, Acts 7:38, in the King James Version, tells of Moses being “in the church in the wilderness,” that is, among the congregated nation of Israel. In another instance the Scriptures state that “a bitter persecution started against the church,” referring to the community of Christians in Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1, The Jerusalem Bible) In one of his letters, Paul greets “the church in [Philemon’s] house,” the local congregation that met there.—Philemon 2, Revised Standard Version.
Clearly, the term “church” as used in the Bible designates, not a place of worship, but rather a group of worshipers. Acknowledging this, Clement of Alexandria, a second-century religious teacher, wrote: “Not the place, but the congregation of the elect, I call the Church.”