Is there a difference between “A” Church and “THE” Church? Is it necessary to “be a member in good standing” of “A” church to be in God’s will regarding “THE” Church? After all it IS written “Not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together…” But I don’t read anything about there being a membership roll that is checked off every week to measure a person’s love for God and His Kingdom.
Jesus said He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Now I really don’t think Jesus was referring to a whole bunch of local congregations when he referred to His Church. Instead he was referring to all those of all time who accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. THE Church are the one He called… He saved… He made to be His Bride. Talk to any pastor worth his salt and he will agree with Billy Graham…
In a 1990 interview with PBS, Billy Graham himself stated his believe that only about 25% of those who come forward at one of his events actually became Christians. In recent years, studies have shown that only 6% of people who “come forward” at an evangelistic crusade are any different in their beliefs or behavior one year later.
Who is THE CHURCH? Those who walk an aisle? Who pray a prayer? Who get wet in a baptistery? Who’s names are on a local congregation’s role? Who complete a new members class… finish required classes… are confirmed? Actually it’s not hard to identify those who are a member of The Church in good standing!
These people “believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Members of THE Church have the fruit of the Spirit!
They meet regularly with other believers for worship, prayer, and hearing God’s Word (But don’t necessarily have their name on a role).
They love God… love their neighbor… and exemplify love as a way of life.
They give to those in need… help the poor… are humble, loving, forgiving, and merciful.
They live a life steeped in grace, humility, and liberty!
They aren’t bound by the laws of the self-righteous!
They REFUSE to let the thoughts, judgments, and attitudes of others control them.
A person does not have to be a member of a local congregation to be or do those things. Will they meet together with other believers regularly? Yes! Of course! Will they build relationships with other believers for mutual encouragement and help? Yes! Of course! Does that mean they HAVE TO BE A MEMBER OF A LOCAL CONGREGATION? You will have to answer that question for yourself.
For me… I worship every Sunday with other believers. I have many brothers and sisters in Christ who I love meeting with weekly. I do ministry to build up individual Christians, ministers, and churches. I love THE Church. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a member of a local church. But I do think the concept of “Church” has changed… IS changing… and will continue to change. If a local congregation were to call me to be their pastor, I would joyfully follow God’s call. But does a person HAVE to be a member of a local congregation to be saved? No, I don’t think so…
Conclusion: The spiritual landscape of America has changed. The definition of “Church” has not… and never will… change. What it means to be a Christian will never change. But I do believe that how being a Christian is lived out is different today than it was a few years ago. There are seismic shifts going on world wide… but God is still God. He is still on His throne, and that will never change!
Just a few thoughts from North West Alabama… (That are open to modification under the Lord’s leadership).