In that post, I had argued that the modern concept of “local church” tends to separate Christians from one another, such that we see each other as ekklesia (“church”) only when gathered within the context of that “local church” (but not a subset or with another group).
At the end of the post, I asked two questions. I’m not going to repeat them here, but Scott includes the questions in his comment.
Here is Scott’s comment:
Alan, you asked:
1. Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve written here?
Yes, I absolutely agree. The evidence in scripture for this kind of exclusivity is scant to non-existent. And if we think of the Christian faith in terms of a movement (which I think it is and was then) rather than an institution then this makes sense. Also, Jesus (in contrast to the religious leaders of his day) seems more inclusive than exclusive to me.
2. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree, what would happen to the church (ekklesia) if we treated the assembly (“church”) as less exclusive, as I’ve talked about here?
I think a beautiful thing would happen. The church would have a greater witness to the world! But as long as we have expensive buildings and salaried pastors (I am one so this is not stone throwing) it is likely to be impossible.
There is a reason for the exclusivity you describe. It is inherent to our practice of “church.” Our practice of church today creates a competitive and protective mindset that just can’t be ignored. We have too many obligations (debt, salaries, programs, membership rolls, etc) to provide for. There is a motive behind keeping it exclusive. It’s not right and I hate this (I struggle with it all the time), but it’s the way things are.
What do you think? Is the exclusivity of the modern “local church” inherent in our practice of church today? Does our modern understanding of church create a competitive and protective mindset? How do we help one another move away from that, or should we?