Literally, a gathering; in common Protestant usage (a) a group of people gathered for worship and religious instruction, the group of people who habitually so gather; (b) in some countries the organized local unit of any denomination other than the state church or churches. In sense (a) a congregation is thought of in contrast with a secular audience: a minister addresses the congregation in a service in the church, but speaks to an audience in a public lecture on religious liberty, or possibly to an audience of miscellaneous listeners in an evangelistic tabernacle. In sense (b) congregation is an organization of the “sect” type, in contrast with a “church”; for example, in Germany or Scandinavia one attends or joins a Catholic or a Lutheran church, but a Baptist, Methodist, or Sev...

From the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Published with permission from the Review and Herald Publishing Association.