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Many Christians today are disappointed with the church and try to remain Christian without belonging to a local congregation. They are usually called “the unchurched.” Some of them believe it is necessary to leave the church to find God.

I agree with some of the arguments made by the unchurched. The church has committed many mistakes during its long history. That being said, it is still not right for us to follow Christ while flying solo. Jesus did instruct the disciples to organize into communities during the Apostolic period. He did establish a church.

He taught that His church would be built on the truth that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:15–19). It becomes almost impossible for us to remain on that foundational truth without being part of a church where we are taught, corrected, admonished, and confirmed, and where those who diverge from the Apostolic truth are rebuked. Jesus illustrated His relationship with the church with the figure of a vine and its branches (John 15). This union was well understood by His disciples, who compared it to the relationship between a head and its body (Eph. 1:22–23), a husband and his wife (5:22–33), and a house and the stone on which it is built (1 Peter 2:4–8). We cannot have Christ without His church.

Jesus also taught His disciples the way they should proceed in the case of a brother who has fallen in sin (Matt. 18:15–20). The process presupposes and requires belonging to a community led by people with spiritual authority. Jesus also ordered that His followers make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that He had commanded them (28:19–20). It did not take long for the Apostolic Christians to formulate declarations or confessions of faith that served as a basis for the catechism and instruction of new converts, and to examine and reject false teachers (Acts 8:36–37; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:5–11; 1 John 4:15).

Jesus also commanded His disciples to meet regularly and eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:14–20). Thus, the unchurched cannot celebrate communion rightly, for the Lord’s Supper requires the company of brothers and sisters who share the same faith.

Years before the post-Apostolic period, before the intrusion of Greek philosophy in the theology of the church and the decree of Constantine—the influences that some say are chiefly responsible for the institutional church’s corruption—the church of Christ was already organized, with its offices, disciplinary system, regular functioning, and creeds and confessions.

The unchurched, in reality, are not against the organized church merely because they want a purer form of Christianity. What they really want is to be Christians in their own way, without having to answer to anyone.

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From the April 2019 Issue
Apr 2019 Issue