I’ve posted several blogs about the modern definition and practice of the “local church” (see “City Church Revisited…“, “More on Defining the Church…“, “Ekklesia as a Qualitative Term…” and especially “Geographically Local Church…” and “Blurring the distinctions…“). In particular, I don’t see the modern exclusionary practices when we see the church in Scripture.
When I say “modern exclusionary practices”, I’m talking about the way that we recognize our responsibilities as believers toward other believers. In “modern exclusionary practices” we recognize our responsibilities as being limited only to those with whom we share “membership in a local church”, while we do not recognize our responsibilities toward other believers (even if they are our neighbors, coworkers, or family members).
I recently came across an article that pertained to the “local,” church. Now, I have always seen the church as a local visible body of baptised believers (that is for those of you who were wondering if I’d ever show my hand). This article was expressing how the church should be local geographically. In other words if someone had to travel some distance (of course that distance is relative) for church was it really local.
So how local is local? The author said if you have to travel more than 30 minutes, was that church really local? He added that believers needed to be close enough to be able to be involved in other’s lives on a pretty regular basis. So it is important to view the church as local and visible or can it remain universal and invisible?
In response, I commented:
You’ve asked a great question, and one that I have wrestled with on my blog. While location and distance are certainly important, I’m also concerned about how we see our connection to believers around us. If we drive even 5 minutes to meet with a group of believers, but never interact with the believers in our own neighborhood (because they belong to another local church), I think we have an invalid concept of local church.
I’m beginning to think of the “local church” as all believers with whom God allows me to interact. That includes the ones that I meet with regularly. But, it also includes my neighbors and co-workers who are believers. They are part of the local church for me, and we are responsible for one another just as the ones who share “membership”.
So, here is my question for you, my readers: What concerns would you have in seeing all believers that God brings into your life as part of your church? What benefits are there in recognizing the church in this way?