I live to get that question, only so that I can ask that question back. The answer reveals much, and gets us onto my favorite subject. Recently I received an answer that I had heard about, but never heard directly. This person I had asked said that they went to church so n so. (name covered for privacy) I immediately recognized who it was, it was the TV preacher from a neighboring state!
That story brings me to the thrust of this article, can you go to church at your TV and what is the church?
What is the Church?
If we look to the scriptures, we will find a reference for two churches. The first would be the universal church, and the second the local church. Let’s take a look at both.
The Universal Church
The church universal is that church Jesus promised to build – (Mat 16:18). It is referred to as the body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23) and that there is only one church in (Eph 4:4). This one body / church, is made up of individual members (Rom 12:4-5; 1Cor 12:27). In (Acts 2:47) we see that the Lord alone adds to this church.
Those in this one church are saved because Christ is the Savior of the body (Eph 5:23). They receive spiritual blessings, among which is the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7).
As we continue to study, we see that members of the church universal have a requirement to not lose their head. In (Joh 15:1-8) we see the branches need to remain in the true vine, which is Christ.
The Local Church
(there’s one in Borger, Tx too!)
As we continue to study, we see evidence of a local church. In (Rom 16:16) we see a reference to churches, plural. Does this contradict the scriptures? No. We notice that Paul left Titus in Crete to “ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). We see Paul in his missionary work as an Apostle to, “ordain elders in every city” indicating there were local bodies, churches.
Continuing our search, we notice the local churches assembling to worship and to observe the Lord’s supper. (Acts 20:7; 1Cor 11:23-34; Heb 10:25) According to the pattern of the first Christians, they gathered together physically. How else can you “provoke one another to love” or to “admonish one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs? (Col 3:16)
This begs the question, without a local church, how would the church universal assemble? What venue, how would you administer the Lord’s supper, the language barrier, etc.?
As we look at the examples and revelation of the New Testament, we find that the autonomous local body is the largest authorized assembly of the church for the specific purpose of worship and it’s work. (Eph 4:11-13)
There is a leadership to be in the local church. There is no example, command or inference of any larger earthly organization, in the scriptures, other than the local church. We also see that members are to obey them that have the rule over them in the local body / church, (Heb 13:17; 1Cor 16:13) as well as to submit to one another.
Think about the wisdom of this method of organization. If error springs it’s ugly head up in one local work, it’s very likely to die there and not infect all of the churches worldwide. Additionally, when people study their bibles honestly, churches of Christ emerge everywhere.
To What church do you belong?
Local church membership, must align with the church universal you’re added to by the Lord. It must hold to the doctrines of Christ (Mt 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.)
One final thought, H Leo Boles offered 5 things that hinder the work of the church;
- Denominational Names
- Denominational Creeds
- Denominational Authorities
- Denominational Ordinances
- Denominational Tests of Fellowship