Bible Metrics: How Many Times is 'The Church' Mentioned in the BIble?

Curious about the church's role in the Bible? Uncover the surprising truth of how many times it's mentioned and what the scriptures reveal about the church's significance.

Last Updated:
March 26, 2024
8 Minutes

Table of Contents

Throughout the ages, the Bible has served as a cornerstone of faith, providing guidance for our lives and shaping our moral landscape. A beacon of wisdom and inspiration, its words resonate with individuals across continents and cultures, illuminating the human connection to a higher power. Among these words, one stands out for many - the term 'church'. So, precisely how many times does the Bible refer to the ostensible heart of Christian worship, the 'church'? This is the question we aim to unearth, surely a deep dive into the very core of biblical literature. 

What does the word 'church' mean in the Bible?

In exploring the deeper essence of the term 'church' as depicted in the Bible, it is vital we take into account its original context. Following its first appearance in Matthew 16:18, 'church' sets the underlying tone as not merely an edifice of worship, but rather the collective of faithful believers. The term derives from the Greek “ekklesia”, signifying a chosen assembly or congregation. 

In this collective sense, the church is a gathering of those who've chosen to believe in, and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Each believer, therefore, is part of the living, breathing entity known as the church. Fully comprehending this truth can radically transform our perception of what it truly means to be the 'church'- not an inanimate structure, but a dynamic, spiritual body comprising of individual believers. 

Indeed, the Apostle Paul poignantly elucidates this in 1 Timothy 3:15, defining the church not as a mere structure, but as the "household of God...a pillar and buttress of the truth". Hence, we could interpret the church as the embodiment of divine truth and the locus of God's activity on earth. 

The multifaceted, profound nature of the church is well articulated in the pages of the New Testament. While the specific term 'church' might not be present in the Old Testament, the concept of a gathered, faithful community certainly exists, thus reinforcing its fundamentally communal, not architectural, nature. 

  • The term 'church' originates from the Greek term "ekklesia", meaning a gathered assembly or congregation.
  • The church represents a spiritual organism made up of individual Christians globally, rather than a mere physical structure.
  • It is viewed as the embodiment of divine truth and God's chosen medium of activity in the world.
  • Though the Old Testament might not mention 'church' specifically, it undeniably emphasizes the importance of a gathered, faithful community.

How many times is the word "Church" mentioned in the Bible?

Here is an intriguing question for you - did you know that, in fact, the term 'church' is absent from the Old Testament?

In the New Testament, the word "church" is mentioned 80 times, signifying its importance to the Christian faith. Additionally, "churches" in its plural form occurs 37 times. This terminology derives from the Greek "ekklesia," which translates to a congregation or assembly for religious purposes.

One of the pivotal references is found in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus articulates His intention to establish His church, laying the cornerstone for all Christian communities. Historically, these communities, which formed the early Christian church, assembled in diverse locations like the Temple, synagogues, and private homes. The growth of house churches became particularly pronounced under Roman persecution, fostering the intimate and communal nature of worship that characterized early Christianity.

Stepping aside from the numbers, we must comprehend the deeper implications of the term 'church'. Here's a thought-provoking truth - 'church', in its biblical interpretation, does not refer to a tangible building. Rather, the term 'church' hearkens to the concept of ekklesia in the original manuscripts - the 'called-out ones' who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ

When it comes to the size of this 'ekklesia', the New Testament reveals that a local 'church' could constitute as few as 'two or three gathered together' in Jesus' name. This intimate image of church life is an innate aspect of several vital biblical passages (Rom.12, 1 Cor.12, 1 Cor.14, Eph.4). However, upon the backdrop of these revelations, we conclude that the concept of the 'church' harbors a rich and vast spectrum of dimensions, all of which are crucial to our understanding of the divine Word

The fact remains that the true interpretation of 'church' unfolds itself within the hallowed pages of the Bible, the sanctified scriptures. We are called upon to view the term through the lens of its divine context, thus immersing ourselves in the inexhaustible depths of its profound implications. Hence, understanding the usage of 'church' in the Bible is more of a journey than a destination - a journey that beckons us onward, ever learning, ever growing in our spiritual comprehension and personal faith


  • The term 'church' occurs approximately 120 times in the New Testament and the gospels, but is absent from the Old Testament.
  • Its first appearance is in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus speaks of building His church.
  • According to biblical interpretation, 'church' doesn't signify a physical building but refers to 'the called-out ones' who believe in Jesus Christ, also known as the 'ekklesia' in the original manuscripts.
  • A local 'church', in biblical terms, could be as small a gathering as 'two or three' in Christ's name.
  • The understanding of 'church' in the Bible offers multiple dimensions and invites an ongoing journey of spiritual discovery and growth.

Which books of the Bible mention 'church' the most?

In the sacred texts of Christianity, the concept of the "church" is foundational, evolving from the early Christian church to the universal church that many know today. The term "church" itself is mentioned predominantly in the New Testament, with certain books referencing the term more frequently. Specifically, the books of Acts and the book of Revelation provide considerable focus on the church, detailing the establishment and expansion of Christian communities as well as prophecies concerning the church's future.

The table below summarizes the frequency of the term "church" in these influential books:


"Church" Mentions

"Churches" Mentions







1 Corinthians






These books, among others, provide insights into the early Christian community, the ecclesiological perspectives of Jesus Christ (notably in Matthew 16:18), and the vision of the true church as a spiritual body, which has shaped Church history and continues to influence major churches today.

  • While the concept of 'church' is present in the New Testament, it is absent from the Old Testament.
  • The Book of Matthew introduces the term 'church' for the first time.
  • Significant narratives about church life appear in the Epistles, referencing the local church.
  • The local church can be as small as 'two or three gathered together in my name' (Matthew 18:20).
  • Churches of Judea and Galatia are among the specific mentions in the New Testament.

Does the frequency of 'church' in the Bible change over different translations?

Due to translation differences and varying interpretation methodologies across Bible versions, the frequency of 'church' can indeed exhibit subtle fluctuations. Let's consider the King James Version (KJV), for instance. The word 'church' appears approximately 115 times in the New Testament. Now, if we are to examine another version, such as the New International Version (NIV), we'll notice that it nearly mirrors the KJV with about 114 mentions. Although the difference is marginal, it still bears testament to how translation nuances can slightly impact word frequencies. 

In essence, although different translations of the Bible can result in minor variability of 'church' prevalence, the overall frequency and its connotation remain fairly consistent, painting an immutable picture of the 'church' as the collective body of faithful adherents, integral to the ecclesial narrative of the New Testament. 


  • The term 'church' originates from the Greek word 'ekklesia' and is not present in the Old Testament.
  • The appearance of 'church' in the Bible can vary marginally across different translations, although its overall occurrence remains consistent.
  • 'Church' is primarily depicted as a congregation or assembly of believers, rather than a physical building.
  • Despite minor fluctuations, different Bible translations preserve the central concept of the 'church' as an enduring and vital element of the New Testament narrative.

Does the frequency of 'church' in the Bible have theological implications?

Through the annals of the sacred text, it becomes distinctly clear that the word 'church' is not merely a decorative component in the narrative. The recurring presence of 'church'—with its approximately 120 occurrences primarily nestled in the gospels and the New Testament—should not be dismissed as mere happenstance. No, dear reader. This frequency is a testament to the integral role of the '(ecclesia) church' as the cornerstone of Christian living, fellowship, and service to the divine. 

By featuring 'church' profusely, the Bible underscores its deep importance and the multifaceted aspects it embraces. We must consider the use of 'church' not merely as a term, but as a rallying call to assemble and enact our faith collectively. Comprehending the essence of 'church' as characterized by the Bible, is nothing short of embarking on a journey of theological discovery. 

We must also contemplate the stipulations and their implications. When the scriptures speak of a 'church', they refer without ambiguity to a gathering of like-minded believers, not a mere structure of stone or wood (Matthew 18:20). If these identifiers are not met, it prompts us to question: Can an assembly still be deemed a 'church' in the biblical sense? This question is a powerful theological nudge compelling us towards introspection and critical examination of our understanding and implementation of the 'church' within our communities. 

In conclusion, the frequency of 'church' in the Bible does extend beyond offering a quantitative assessment. It provides us with qualitative insights into the profound significance of the concept of church, and serves as springboard for theological exploration and personal spiritual growth


  • The frequency of the term 'church' in the Bible is a theological tool highlighting its vital significance to Christian living and spiritual community.
  • The term 'church' as used in the Bible serves as an impetus for gathering and practicing faith collectively.
  • Scriptures denote 'church' as a gathering of believers, raising critical theological questions about our understanding and practical execution of the 'church' concept.
  • The repeated mention of 'church' encourages theological exploration and personal spiritual growth.

Is there a difference in the use of 'church' in the Gospels versus the Epistles?

In the Gospels, which are the narratives of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the term 'church' comes to the surface only a few times. The first of which is in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus declares to Peter, "I will build my church." This proclamation not only established the promise of the church's formation but also unrolled a majestic panorama of Christ's loving relationship with His church, which He protects, nurtures and cherishes. The church, in this context, they say, embodies the universal assembly of all believers bound together by faith in Christ

Now, setting our compass to the Epistles, a shift occurs. The Epistles - those instructional letters written by apostles such as Paul, Peter, John, and others - use the term 'church' much more frequently. Why is this significant? As we sifted through the Epistles, it became clear that 'church' often denotes the local gatherings of Christians such as that mentioned in the Churches of Galatia or the church in a home (Rom 16:5, Col 4:15). The church, in this sense, is a congregation unified not just by faith but by geographical location and shared practice. Furthermore, these local churches display a reflection of the wider, universal church, and remind us of Matthew 18:20 ("two or three gathered together in my name"). The Epistle usage evolves from mere locations to a more profound embodiment of a spiritual body, the mystical body of believers, linked through spiritual gifts, as outlined in Ephesians 3:9 and seen through the early church history portrayed in the book of Acts.

Throughout the Bible and its manifold translations, the word 'church' shakes off constrictive definitions tied to buildings or places, it weaves an exquisite tapestry that showcases both a divine gathering united in faith and a human community grounded in shared love for Christ and one another. Isn't it truly enlightening how the Bible – a historical and existential beacon - shines a light on dynamic perspectives? 


  • In the Gospels, the term 'church' is used sparingly, first appearing in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus pronounces the establishment of His Church. The church, in this context, represents a universal body of believers in Christ.
  • In the Epistles, the term 'church' is more frequently used to denote local congregations of Christians and home churches (Rom 16:5, Col 4:15). This usage emphasizes human gatherings bound not just by faith, but also by geographical proximity and shared practices.
  • The Bible, across its various translations, presents a multifaceted definition of the church that transcends physical buildings and extends to both spiritual and human gatherings in Christ's name.

Are there synonyms for 'church' used in the Bible?

In our quest to understand the frequency and context of the word 'church' in the Bible, we cannot overlook the significance of synonymous terms used throughout the sacred scriptures. These counterparts, while not the exact term, 'church,' carry an essence that shares a sublime kinship with the concept of 'church.' Indeed, we find that the Bible, particularly in its original languages, does not limit itself to the exclusive use of the Greek word 'ekklesia' that we now translate as 'church.' 

Consider, for example, terms such as 'assembly,' and 'congregation,' often used in the Old Testament. While 'church' itself is not found in this section of the Bible, these related terms certainly evoke a kindred sentiment. They highlight an assembly of believers, a community of faith, destined to engage in corporate worship and fellowship, a core characteristic of what 'church' implies. 

Additionally, the romantic metaphor of the 'Bride of Christ' is frequently used in the New Testament to refer to the entirety of believers, signifying the church as a collective. In the eyes of Christ Jesus, the church is also the 'body of believers,' a metaphor essentially presenting the church as living, breathing entities through which Christ carries out His divine purpose. Can this not be seen as another synonym for 'church,' reflecting its living and active nature? 

Despite these synonymous terms, one must remember while interpreting the scriptures, that the word 'church,' in its truest sense, is more than a mere gathering or assembly. It is not limited by geographical patterns or fixed architectural settings. Instead, it refers to a spiritual assembly, comprising individuals devoted to following the teachings of Jesus Christ, thereby forming a spiritual fellowship that transcends physical realms. 


  • The Bible utilizes synonymous terms such as 'assembly,' 'congregation,' 'Bride of Christ,' and 'body of believers' which signify 'church.'
  • Despite the manifestation of the term 'church' in these various forms, their collective reference is to a spiritual assembly of individuals who adhere to Jesus Christ's teachings.
  • The term 'church' signifies more than a mere physical gathering or architectural edifice. It manifests as a spiritual fellowship that knows no boundaries.

How does the Bible's use of 'church' compare to its use in modern language?

From the Bible's perspective, the 'church' never merely alludes to a physical structure or a building designated for worship services, as is often the case in modern parlance. Instead, the scriptural text bestows on this term a meaning much richer and complex.

Do you remember when the term 'church' made its first appearance in the Bible? It was in Matthew 16:18, where the original word translated as 'church' from the original Greek manuscripts is ekklesia. This term, rooted in ancient Greek, centered around the idea of a gathering or an assembly of the summoned ones. On a deeper level, 'church' in the Bible context could be as small as 'two or three gathered together in my name' (Mt.18:20), a reflection of the broader community of believers united under the banner of Christ's love and teachings.

Yet, it is paramount we remember that it's not the size or the setting of the church that carries the real essence of its biblical meaning, but rather the spiritual union and mutual edification of its members—and importantly, their collective journey toward salvation. This interpretation marks a stark contrast to many prevalent modern views that equate a church primarily with an architectural edifice or a structured organization. Inside the New Testament, particularly in the imperative passages regarding church life, such as Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 14, and Ephesians 4, 'church' is often referenced to emphasize the local community of believers.

This association evidently underscores another crucial difference. In modern English, the word 'church' is widely used to refer to global denominations or entire communities of belief spanning international boundaries, providing yet another testament to how much the use of 'church' has evolved and expanded in modern times. However, we must remember this: if a 'church' does not embody the identifiers noted in the Bible, then can it truly be called a Biblical church? It is this pressing question that we must continuously ask ourselves as we navigate through the challenges and mystique of faith.


  • 'Church' in the Bible does not solely refer to a physical structure, but rather to a collective of believers united in Christ.
  • The biblical use of 'church' emphasizes the spiritual unity and journey of its members toward salvation, a deviation from the modern emphasis on structure and organization.
  • In the New Testament, 'church' often refers to the local community of believers, unlike in modern usage where it can also denote global denominations.
  • It is essential to continuously reflect on the biblical essence of 'church' in the face of its ever-evolving usage in modern times.

Facts & Stats

In the Old Testament, the word 'church' does not appear.

The book of Acts has the most mentions of 'church' with 23 occurrences.

The term 'church' is found in 15 books of the New Testament.

The term 'church' is not found in the Gospels of Mark and John.


Matthew 21:43

Matthew 16:19

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