With which of the following statements are you in greater agreement?
- “Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”
- “Away from [the church] one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation.”
For the average evangelical Christian the first statement may lack some balance, but the second sounds downright Romish. If this describes your reaction, then your ecclesiology is closer to the author of the first, Lenny Bruce, than to the author of the second, John Calvin (Institutes 4.1.1). Bruce, satirist of organized religion and nemesis to hypocrisy, a comedian notorious for his vulgarity and impiety, nevertheless expressed a common contemporary assessment of organized religion, while Calvin’s statement seemed to betray his role as one of the primary catalysts of the Protestant Reformation.
Sadly, evangelical America exhibits a proclivity for (unintentionally: e.g. parachurch world; intentionally: e.g “emergent” Christianity) cutting off the branch she stands upon in order to “bring revival” or “make a difference for Jesus” or “have a deeper spiritual experience with Jesus” outside of the very means God promised to bless with those specific blessings–Jesus’ body, His church. All too often the self-defeating (as far as Scripture is concerned) sentiment arises in such groups, “The church failed. The church wounded me. The church didn’t meet my needs. Therefore, we need a new non-church church.”Perhaps even more sad than evangelical America’s dissing on the church is when Reformed churches act likewise. When Reformed churches try to be “unchurchy,” they too are guilty of betraying what historically is at the heart of their identity (much more Scripturally too)–robust ecclesiology. Reformed brothers and sisters, this ought not be. Of all Christians, the Reformed ought to delight in ecclesiology, for none other reason than that Jesus Himself delights in His bride; To spit on the bride is to scoff the bridegroom. Though infinitely patient, our king does not take kindly to such mockery.