Thursday, August 11, 2011
Who Is The Church? (Part 2)
The Local Church
Growing up, I cannot count the number of times the term "local church" was said from the pulpits of the churches I attended. I was in my teens before I realized that the term appears nowhere in the bible. In fact, there isn't really even a Greek word in the entire bible that can be translated "local". To be fair, the idea of a localized group of believers is found in many places, and this idea has come to be known as the "local church".
The trouble is that as I was growing up, the idea of "local church" was always used to try to get people to attend a particular building more regularly and or to give more to one particular group. The result was that to defend this idea, pastors of these local assemblies had to take scriptures out of context, or at least stretch the context, order to "proof text" their particular views. I remember once being told that the local assembly was the NT equivalent of the "storehouse" in Mal 3:10. The result of this thinking was to command all those in the local assembly to give their tithe to this particular "local church" and to condemn those who may give to God in any other way. Another time, I was informed by an assistant pastor that Jesus praised the Pharisees for tithing (Matt 23:23) and then he went on to use this as a proof text that Jesus commanded the believers in the NT to continue the tithe.
To my shame, I have even participated in this deliberate misuse of the Bible. While I was serving as a deacon we were asked to see if we could help out a family who was struggling financially. After interviewing the family, it was discovered that they stopped regular giving after the father lost his job. The deacon board chose not to help this family until they began to once again give their tithe. We justified this through some clever misuse of the Bible and felt little guilt (at the time) for turning our brother away because he was not contributing to the ministry of the "local church".
I am not saying that the various institutions we have come to know as the local church are completely unbiblical. What I am saying is that the idea of "church", as it appears within the pages of the Bible, may have a different meaning than what we first think of when we say the word "church" today. Maybe, it is not talking about a group of people who meet at a certain place, and listen to a certain person, and all agree on the same things and sing the same songs every Sunday. Maybe, just maybe, it is talking about the living, breathing, organism that the Apostles called the "Body of Christ". And Maybe, just maybe, it does not look anytking like the institutional church we have come to know.
In Christ's Service,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry