I just read a wiki page on Jehovah's witnesses, visited their official website, and was quite surprised that in the list of their believes there is a striking absence of the definition (or at least description) of their concept of the Church.

According to what I can see at the moment, they are only using the word "church" or plural "churches" in reference to the numerous religious groups in the main-stream Christianity (which they consider all to be in apostasy), while they themselves prefer to speak about the Kingdom, rather than the Church.

Is it a result of their special translation of the Bible (in which many words were translated quite differently from the way it is done in the majority of Bible translations, for example, in many places the word that is translated in other translations as "fellowship" in their translation is rendered as "sharing") or am I simply missing out on something here?

What's their concept of the Church? What's their teaching on the Church? When did it start? How long has it been around? Has it always existed since it was started or, perhaps, it was over at some time and then re-stated again?

  • There are too many question in this
    – 007
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 15:14

3 Answers 3


The word church has various meanings. It can be used to refer to an physical building. Witness churches are called Kingdom Halls. It can also be used to refer to a group of believers in a specific area. For sense of the word, Witnesses use congregation, which I believe is quite common for many branches of Christianity.

But the word church has another meaning, and it is this meaning I think you're asking about. The "church" as the united body of all believers. For this sense, Witnesses don't have a direct word. They do use the word Christian in a very narrow sense, to refer only to themselves. Perhaps that's their nearest equivalent. And yes, they do believe that "true Christianity" essentially died out after the First Century, and (with the exception of a few brief flames here and there) was reborn with them.

The church may also be the organisation, the institution, as distinct from the individual members thereof. For that sense, the Witnesses use various words, notably, the word organisation itself. They may also talk of the "Faithful and Discreet Slave", which is the teaching body of the organisation (basically, the group that define the doctrine).

The finer points of how the Faithful and Discreet Slave is distinct from the Governing Body have now escaped me. I used to know that. I've forgotten.

  • Thanks. Do they have any teaching or a concept of the universal Body of Christ?
    – brilliant
    Commented May 19, 2012 at 21:32
  • No. Or, at least, not by that name. To be honest, I'm not sure what the universal Body of Christ is, so I couldn't say whether they have an equivalent.
    – TRiG
    Commented May 19, 2012 at 22:02
  • "To be honest, I'm not sure what the universal Body of Christ" - By saying "universal Body of Christ" I didn't mean to introduce any new concept - perhaps, I shouldn't have used the word "universal" here - I just meant what Paul was talking about in Rom. 12:4, 1st Cor. 12:12, Eph. 1:23, 4:12, 16, Col. 1:24, 2:19 - that all the believers in Christ constitute His One Body of which Christ is the head. Do JW's have this teaching? (I am sorry for asking again - I just have no one who had an experience of being among them).
    – brilliant
    Commented May 20, 2012 at 2:37
  • 2
    @brilliant I believe you question in this comment should be a new question to cut down on conversation.
    – user1054
    Commented May 20, 2012 at 11:15

In Jehovah's Witness theology, "the Church" is restricted to 144,001 humans who form the heavenly government, with the risen Jesus Christ as its head. The others (the 144,000) are humans from earth who are selected to go to heaven and reign with Christ in the heavenly aspect of God's kingdom, over the earthly aspect.

In their "Insight on the Scriptures" volume 1, they do not even have an entry under the heading 'Church'! You have to turn to page 497 to find the heading 'Congregation', with the sub-heading 'The Christian Congregation of God' before you can learn anything about what mainstream Christians speak of as the Church of Christ. There you learn how Jehovah's Witnesses claim the Jewish nation was rejected as the congregation of God, to be replaced with what you and I would call 'the Church' that Jesus Christ said he would build, that the gates of Hades would never overcome, over which he is supreme head. Jehovah's Witnesses speak of 'the congregation' instead of 'the church'.

They claim that it is limited in number to 144,000 humans who are specially chosen to join Jesus in heaven, Jesus being the head of this tiny group, 'the church' (see page 498 para. 3 and 4).

With regard to how Jehovah's Witnesses speak of what non-JWs call 'the church', they only speak of "Christendom". This is a somewhat derogatory term, as they view "Christendom" (in its entirety) as under the control of Satan. They view the genuine, biblical church today as being restricted to the 144,000, all of whom, they claim, are Jehovah's witnesses from the 1st century until today. This means that the millions of other JWs who are not anointed as evidence of being in the 144,000 class, are supporters of the church class, identifying themselves with it, but not technically members of it. They say the church [i.e. congregation] of Christ took over from the church [congregation] of Israel when Jesus died, and that this congregation is limited to 144,000 humans with Christ as its head (therefore, technically, member number 144,001.)

Now you might understand why their version of the Bible, the New World Translation, states in its 'Bible Word Index' (page 1559 1984 edition) CHURCH - See CONGREGATION. It almost seems as if the word 'Church' is a dirty word to JWs.

  • Here is the link to the 'Insight' article that discusses 'Congregation' and 'the Christian congregation of God': wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001021
    – Lesley
    Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 9:06
  • A good jw perspective on this topic is wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2003641
    – 007
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 20:09
  • @Kris Yes, that JW perspective on the topic is interesting. Part of the article says: “the early Christian congregation bore no resemblance to the institutionalized church systems we see today... What happened to that one true congregation? Did it become the mighty Catholic Church? Did it evolve into the denominational, fragmented Protestant church system that we see today?” The answer is that only JWs who are anointed form the 'true' Church (Mt 16:18). The other groups are part of Satan's 'Babylon the Great', apparently.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 8:41
  • @Anne why put this in a comment? If you think it’s of interest edit it into your answer.
    – 007
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 12:35
  • I am responding to your comment, Kris. My answer stands. This is supplementary.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 13:06

The word we use is "congregation" which is a group of worshipers which can be a few or millions, examples:-

NWT Acts 16:5 "Then, indeed, the congregations ("churches" KJV) continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number day by day."

The Greek word "ekklesia" means 'called out" (rendered "church" in a lot of Bibles) or people that have been "called out" from by Jehovah from Satan's world and now collect together to worship Jehovah as Jesus taught.

"Ecclesia (or Ekklesia) in Christian theology means both: a particular body of faithful people, and the whole body of the faithful. Latin ecclesia, from Greek ekklesia had an original meaning of "assembly, congregation, council", literally "convocation."-Google

It is not limited to a 144,000 but open to millions which will become billions yet to come in!!!

  • Yes, the JW use of the word 'congregation' will - in the future - be extended to apply to all the billions who will be resurrected on to a paradise earth. Right now it applies to the few millions who associate with JW congregations. But the JW use of the word 'church' only ever applies to a group of humans who have never, and never will, exceed 144,000 in number. Let's have precision with semantics.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 7:34
  • 1
    @Anna No, not so. John 10:14-16 "I am the fine shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I surrender my life in behalf of the sheep. 16 “And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those too I must bring in, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd."
    – user43190
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 8:35
  • That verse has no bearing on the JW way of using the words 'congregation' and 'church'. We know they view their 144,000 group as the church (body) of Christ who have him as their Mediator, and all other JWs as those 'other sheep' who do not have Christ as their Mediator, yet who are supposed to come under the 'umbrella' coverage of the 144,000. However, the JWs still maintain that only the 144,000 are the 'church' even if others associate with that congregation.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 19:16
  • If this question is asking for jw viewpoint on who form the group of spiritual Israelites with whom the new covenant is made which covenant states that these will be kings and priests along with Jesus . Which group has Jesus as its legal representative (mediator)between themselves and Jehovah God If that is what this 7 year old question was asking when @brilliant asked it then Anne is correct that based on those narrow criteria the church is the 144k taken from the earth since Pentecost 33 ce.
    – 007
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 20:38
  • @Anne however the question is much broader than that and in fact asks too many questions. was 0p asking about why jws don’t use the word church to describe their places of worship? Or why don’t JWs declare they are part of the Church as understood by non jw Christians the answer would be different
    – 007
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 20:45

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