In the first century, ekklesia was the term used for a gathering of citizens called out of their homes and into a public place.  The purpose for the assembly was for a political discussion, a public announcement, a religious meeting, or even a protesting of some issue.

After the resurrection, appearances and the ascension of Jesus Christ, groups of disciples called “the Way” began coming together for the purposes of instruction, worship, encouragement, and observation of the sacraments of communion and baptism. They recognized that this gathering together was Spirit-initiated during these formative years of what was to become the church.

The book of Acts reveals to us some of the characteristics of these early assemblies. The itinerant apostles and elders frequented these groups for the purpose of instruction and encouragement; this was desperately needed during the intense persecution by Judaizers and the Roman government and culture.  This instruction was eventually recognized and formulated into a canon which became known as the New Testament.  These gatherings were places of both sobriety and joy, manifesting the fear of God and the forgiveness and freedom from sin.  Every assembly also became an outpost for the propagation of the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ to regions beyond.  The ekklesia was the seed that became the local churches, which are members of the universal church, the bride and body of Jesus Christ.