So, I made a claim in the title of this post with which some will readily agree and with which some with just as readily disagree: God does not view your local church as distinct from other local churches in your area.
In Scripture, we do see examples of groups of believers meeting together regularly in certain locations. For example, Paul tells the Christians in Rome to greet the church in Prisca and Aquila’ house. (Romans 16:5) He also tells them to greet the brothers and sisters who were with Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, and Hermas (Romans 16:14) and to greet the saints who were with Philologus, Julia, Nereus and Olympas. (Romans 16:15)
It seems clear from these greetings that Paul knew that these believers normally met together in some way. However, this does not mean that these groups of believers were distinct from one another. The very fact that Paul could address one letter to all of these believers and more indicates that he did not view them as distinct but somehow connected with one another.
This connection was not simply some kind of spiritual connection. Even today, people say, “Sure, we’re all part of the same church.” But, then, there is very little – if any – real indication or demonstration of this unity and fellowship. It is a unity in name only.
If you work with another brother or sister in Christ – spend most of your day in the same location as that person – then you are (in reality) part of the same church with them, whether or not the two of you recognize it and live it out and whether or not the two of you are part of the same “local church.” If you live next door to another brother or sister in Christ then you are (in reality) part of the same church with that person, whether or not the two of you recognize it and live it out and whether or not the two of you are part of the same “local church.”
We cannot choose to love, serve, teach, encourage, etc. those who are part of a certain “local church” but not recognize our responsibility and privilege of serving other brothers and sisters who are part of our lives but who may not be part of the same “local church” as us.
In reality, the modern concept of the “local church” – a concept and division of the church that began during the Reformation – is a division among the church that is outside the scope of Scripture. There is nothing in Scripture written specifically about or to the “local church” but the “local church” – as it is understood and practiced today – is not found in Scripture.
So, let’s not let the concept and boundaries set up by modern “local churches” separate us from brothers and sisters in Christ that God brings into our lives. We are responsible for one another in Christ, whether or not we are part of some “local church” organization together.