The “Universal Church” teaching is becoming a universal problem. Since arriving in Moldova, I have seen that this problem is literally around the world. Yes, I am discussing a very controversial topic, but the problems arising from this teaching require attention and are worth our contemplation. What I believe about the doctrine of the church has changed much over the past couple years. Without delving into a study on the biblical doctrine of the church, allow me propose the problem and a solution.
When I refer to the “Universal Church” teaching, I am referring to the idea that the “Church” is an invisible, mystical body of all believers from Pentecost until the rapture. The Bible clearly teaches that there is a bond of all believers. We are all “in Christ” (Rom. 8:1; Rom. 16:7; I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 3:28) and in the “household (family) of God/faith” (Eph. 2:19; Gal. 6:10). I also believe that there will be an assembly (church) of all believers once we all reach eternity. While this may seem like an argument over semantics, consider the problem at hand.
Do you know of people in America or other countries around the world that tend to float around to other churches? Or maybe they attend other ministry-related events that they know of and opt for them over being with their local church several times a year? Or they give financially to ministries but do not give tithe to their local church? Or a local church loses members to an individual holding a home Bible study? While frustrated pastors and missionaries may conclude that those people are simply “not faithful,” what is the root cause of this unfaithfulness to the local church? They are being faithful…to the “Universal Church.” As long as the Christian is with other Christians and is involved in some sort of ministry, he or she is still faithful to church (the Universal Church). In essence, the “Universal Church” has taken priority over the unarguable host of Scriptures referring to the local church.
What is the solution? Pastors and missionaries need to study, know, teach, and focus on the local church. Even if you believe the Bible teaches a Universal Church, your emphasis should be on the local church. Over 95% of all verses that mention “church” undeniably refer to the local church. Until believers realize the importance of the local church, the above problems will continue and only increase.