Leaving One’s Church — or Not . . . part 4

Rick Mattson Church 2 Comments

The issue behind the issue which is behind the issue of possibly leaving one’s church (see my prior post for a good reason to leave) is this:

What is the church?

In other words, if I leave my church, what am I really leaving?

1. A functional view: I’m leaving the place where I serve and am served. Where I give and receive.

2. A relational view: I’m leaving a particular local expression of the universal church that is relationally meaningful to me.

3. A theological view: the local church is the essential, indispensable representation of Christ on earth.

This last view is my own, as you have likely guessed. A theological view of the church should make it difficult (but not impossible) to voluntarily switch churches.

The theological view encompasses the functional and relational views in itself, but it cannot be reduced to either.

Another way to say this is that the local church must go beyond utility. Conceptually, it must rise above a “place” (to serve) or a “group” (of Christian friends), to a theological necessity for the believer.

One passage of many that could be cited is from 1 Corinthians:

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free  . . . ” (12:13).

* * *

I recall an old saying that I first learned in the evangelical and pentecostal churches of southern Minnesota after my conversion to Christ:

There’s no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian.

Maybe that sounds a bit quaint. But apart from extenuating circumstances that prevent one’s participation in the church, I believe it’s essentially correct.

Return to Part 1 of this series.

Comments 2

  1. Rick,

    Nicely put.

    As you know, I fear the necessity of the local, visible church to the life of Christian faith is often not upheld in evangelical circles. I do hope, however, that this fear is misplaced, and many more evangelicals embrace and live out the “theological view” of the local church. Thanks for helping lead the charge!


  2. Patrick, as you have reminded me often in various ways, a purely utilitarian view of the church is inadequate and leads, unfortunately, to the ecclesial consumerism that is so common these days.

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