'Is the Church a church?'
As I reeled from the impact of this 'blurt'ation; my friend re-phrased his question, 'When is a church not part of the Church?'
I quickly reminded him, 'You do realize that somebody might be listening, right?' 'Furthermore', I said, 'if you go around 'blurting out' that question, one, you're gonna immediately 'turn off'; those who believe that, as far as we're concerned, the church is part & parcel with the Church, and two, you might wanna figure out a way to rethink your question, or at least quickly clarify what you mean by 'the church', and 'the Church': a Roman Catholic might see the institutional church ( Catholic, anyway ) as the Church, along with some Protestants, while most Protestants would, I believe, differentiate between the two, alleging that the ( local ) church is just a physical representative of the spiritual Church, the body of believers scattered across the globe.
'Well'; said Jeremiah Bereano, 'I believe, and I think you agree, that the local church is, in many cases, an institution organized to bring believers together for the purposes of corporate worship, fellowship, and edification, also known as 'iron sharpening iron'. Some even exist almost solely for the purpose of evangelism, which, while not entirely without merit, should not be our main objective. By the Church, I mean the physical Body of Christ on earth, His chosen and elect people from every nation; as some would say, 'the invisible Church'.
Although I did not agree with everything that my friend has to say; this sounded about like what I believed, except I had to remind him that 'evangelism', although maybe not quite the same 'brand' practiced by certain branches of the evangelical church today, is the primary objective of the Body of Christ. I told him there had been some discussions going on lately on Facebook as to which was more important, doctrine or love; the general consensus was that love was the most important, as Paul said, 'the greatest of these is love'!
Jeremiah rudely interrupted at this point with, 'In context; Paul is saying that love is greater or more important than faith or hope'.................' ( I could see that this would NOT be one of our shorter conversations! )
'I realize that', I replied, ' but even Jesus, and then John, and James, emphasized the importance of love; Paul too, earlier in 'the love chapter ( I Corinthians 13 ) said that you can have many good things ( tongues ( of men and angels ), prophecy, all faith, etc. ), but if we don't have love, it's all useless. It's good to know what you believe and why you believe it, and even more important that those beliefs line up with God's revealed Word, but as James said, 'faith, without works, is dead ( useless )': we can have the most correct doctrine we want, lining up with 'orthodoxy' that's been taught for the past 2,000 years, but if we don't act on that faith, working it out in our own lives, and loving our brother ( and sister ), all that 'good' doctrine is just words, useless and dead!
'I agree with you there, Chuck', my friend replied; 'I can speak from personal experience in the past, and even up to this day, that many institutionalized churches do not have, or show, much love for the brethren unless you believe pretty much the same things that they do, and attend their local assembly!'
'I know what you're saying there, Jeremiah', I told him, 'and I agree; there are many churches still, that conduct their 'business'' that way, but there are also many who will help out, not only the brethren, but even those that we would call 'the lost'. We tend to look at these ministries, those of us with a more 'correct' doctrine ( yet often without love ), and say things like, 'well' they may be doing what Christ commanded, but their doctrine sure is screwy': I remember a recent conversation with a friend about the earthquake in Haiti; I told him what I heard about John Travolta, at his own expense, from what I understand, loading up his jet with food and other supplies for the survivors down there, and he replied with something like, he's just trying to spread his false gospel of Scientology'! True enough, but at least he's doing what needs to be done, because it needs done, not just 'sitting on his laurels', like many Christians, praying about it, and doing nothing, but maybe sending a gift of money, which most of it will probably never reach Port au Prince anyway!'
Before he could go any further, I quickly clarified, 'I'm not trying to say that Scientology is correct, or even that John Travolta had purely Christian motives in doing what he did, but at least, because he was able to do something, he did it, because it needed doing, not because they were fellow Scientologists, or even Christians, for that matter!' One can't help thinking of a statement allegedly made by a leader in the 'Christian Right', that they deserved what they got ( the Haitians ) because they made a deal with the devil, long ago!
I continued; 'though it is true, that many churches have acted that way, it is becoming more a thing of the past, and there is starting to be more of an outreach among many evangelical, especially, churches today, not only to the communities around them, mostly for the purposes, I'll admit, of a more-or-less false evangelism, but acting as the 'healing leaves' of Revelation 22 to the world around them, and not even because they necessarily believe that's what they are, but because God said they are!'
'What do you mean by 'a more-or-less false evangelism'', he asked me, 'I though that evangelism WAS the primary objective?!'
'Well', I sighed, 'it is, and it''s not!' 'As evangelism is practiced by most Christians today, as I described before, to try to get people to believe like you do, because you have the 'correct' doctrine, is not the primary objective, in fact, it shouldn't even really be our objective, but rather from a desire to share the love of Christ, not in a condemnatory way, as many mistakenly have done, and do, but 'out of a pure heart', with love, remembering that Christ loved us and died for us, 'even when we were sinners', and 'enemies'. He helped us, saved us, not because we had any redeeming qualities in us, but because it needed doing'.
'You still haven't answered my question', he complainingly said.
'Haven't I?' 'We agree that the church is not the Church, and I believe we can agree that the Church, although in many cases part of the church, is not all a part of any local assembly ( this may be a conversation for another day ). I believe that most, if not all, true churches ( true to the Gospel as revealed in Jesus ) are part of the Body of Christ, and that, while many members are part of the Body, membership in a local assembly ( makes it sound like a club, huh? ) does not mean that you a member of the Body.'
'I see what you're saying', Jeremiah almost reluctantly ceded, 'and I can agree, when you put it that way; I'll accept your answer.'
I was glad to hear this, and having told him so, and that I had some pressing business to attend to ( lunch ); I hung up, with the words, 'I'll talk to you more later on, Jer.......you have a great day.........bye!'