Our Church, Their Church, or His Church?

Probably one of the bigger questions that encompass a lot of the issues the 21st Century church has, is: who’s church is it?

Generally today, you will hear four major concepts (or statements) taught:

1) “There is the church.” – a building with walls, a parking lot, and a sign, (no scripture)

2) “Our church” – a division of Christians that you have to join or “place” membership, (no scripture)

3) “This or that church”  – a group of people that generally consider themselves “autonomous” (self-lawed or self-governed) and divided from everyone else on opinion matters, socioeconomic, or race, (no scripture)

4) “The church”  – the single unified body of Christ and the one true church that He established in the first century. (Romans 12:5, 1 Cor 12:12,13,20, Eph 2:14-16, Col 3:15, John 10:16 and so many more)  Can be described as “the church” at such and such, or “the church” in such and such, but is always referring to “the church” of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We can clearly determine which pattern is scriptural by which pattern we can find Bible verses for, but yet, still today many people insist on perverting the scriptures to mean whatever they want it to mean; incorrectly using biblical words to justify their opinions and desires.  After years of seeing problems, and many years of intense study, it has become apparent to many that most congregations today are in fact man-made factions of some kind or another.  Many have established “extra-scriptural” hierarchy, rules, by-laws, business structures, and the like under the guise of being “more scriptural”.  Sadly, many of the Christians that worship in such “churches” do not recognize the disease of division that has crept in and taken hold of the doctrine they follow.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph 4:4-6)  God did not divide the body up.  In fact, Jesus, talking to Jews, put it this way in John 10:16 “And I have other sheep that are not in this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”  The Lord’s plan was never to have a divided church, body, or people.  Even when the church is separated by geographic bounds, we better still be one church.  We still have one Lord, one faith, one baptism…

Upon leaving a certain congregation, I was told an announcement was made that my wife and I had “left the church”.  Unfortunately this is clearly a gross misunderstanding, or an intentional mis-teaching, of what “the church” is.  If our choosing to avoid some “so-called brother” or abstaining from worshiping at a man-made building was considered leaving the church, then it should be clear that group is not the church of the New Testament.  Acts 2:47 lays out that the Lord adds to the church, and how they are added: “those who were being saved”.  Once you are added to the body of Christ, no one else in the world can remove you… but Christ or you.  Paul constantly had concerns about retaining his salvation and told of a few that had lost eternal salvation on accident.  1 Tim 18-20 “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy… holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”  Paul in Acts 20 warned the Ephesian elders that some of them would be wolves “speaking twisted things, to draw away disciples after them” – and shipwreck their faith.  Peter warns in 2 Peter 2 of false prophets coming from within: v 15 “”forsaking the right way, they have gone astray,” giving us an understanding that at one time they were going the right way…  and now they aren’t.  Peter goes on to warn in v20-21 “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”  From these few, and many other, verses its clear to see that the Lord adds us to His church and we can choose to stay faithfully in it, or we can choose to leave.

Furthermore, in 1 Cor 5:11 Paul gives this very clear charge to Christians “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” Just because someone calls themselves a Christian doesn’t mean that you should associate with them.  In fact, this text says that if you have determined that they are immoral, covetous, idolater, a reviler, a drunkard, or a swindler don’t even eat with them.  Have nothing to do with them.  Do not be around them.  Abstain from them.  But the question is…  who is causing the division?  The one who left, or, the one who is being avoided?

If we look back at Acts 20, who did Paul warn that they themselves would be wolves?  That’s right… he warned the elders (the very ones who are supposed be leading and guarding flock).  Sometimes these men are just following the factious traditions they were taught and sometimes these men are putting pride and reputation before scripture.  So what should you do when you find wolves leading the congregation you are in?  You get out! Have nothing to do with them.  Do not be around them.  Abstain from them.  But the question again is asked…  who is causing the division?  The one who left or the one who is being avoided?

It is extremely important that we only get in and stay in the church that belongs to Christ. And it is important that we speak in a way that honors his church.  Its not “our church, your church, their church, this or that church”,  its HIS church. You have either been added to His church or you have not been.  You are either still in His church…  or not.

Questions to consider:

How many churches are there?

Are you a member of “the church”?

Do you speak of “the church” in a scriptural way?  (one, or divided?)

Are you a member of a division of the church? or a faction of the church?

Are your leaders… wolves, immoral, covetous, idolaters, revilers, drunkards, or swindlers?

Are you working to strengthen, to build up, or to edify the whole church?

Are you competing with others in the church for numbers at a specific division of the church?

Who might you need to “put away from you” in order to grow?

Has the church been hurt by division?  Absolutely.  Would the church function better without so much division?  You better believe it.  Can we do anything about it?  Of course we can.  We can stop perverting the scriptures.  We can start following what the Bible says and stop following what man says.  “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12

I hope this article has opened your eyes to some specific problems that are happening around you.  Feel free to drop us a question or a comment.

Comments

  1. Jan Hickerson says:

    I never thought about “placing membership ” in the same context as “joining the church.”
    Where did this custom come from? Jan

    • I don’t know of any concrete evidence as to when that concept started and I am sure it started at different times and different locations making it even harder to determine. In my opinion, however, it could simply be a misunderstanding of scriptures like:

      “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons…” (Philippians 1)
      “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae…” (Romans 16)
      And several others.

      If someone has been taught that there are many churches, then, it’s easy to see the division. For example one might see: the church “at” philippi (#1), the church “at” Cenchreae (#2) and so forth.
      However, when you look at the New Testament in context, it is clear there is one church. For instance: “the church” at Philippi (#1), “the church” at Cenchreae (#1)… making it the same one church just at another location.

      Scriptural members of the “one body of Christ” then identify with other scriptural members of the “one body of Christ” in a geographical area in an effort to fulfill our scriptural obligation to edify, teach, encourage, admonishing, partaking of the Lord’s supper, singing, and many other things together. They develop a relationship, kinship, and fellowship in Christ one to another. Some incorrectly call that “placing membership”…it is not. It’s called being a Christian.

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