Ecclesiology is a word for what we believe about the church. I believe the church is a powerful and important part of Christianity.
When I refer to the church, I am referring to the local church. I am aware that at times Scripture uses the word church to describe the total of all believers of all ages. This use is sometimes called the universal church. But my admiration, and this post are aimed at the local church.
I sense Satan is attacking the local church by making believers prefer to focus on the universal church instead of buying into the power of a committed congregation. One front in these attacks is to undermine the commitment of church membership. Some will claim they are a part of the universal church and act as if joining a local congregation would compromise their service or demean their commitment.
I define the local church as a group of people who have thrown in their lives together for the sake of serving God. I believe these congregations are God’s plan for reaching this world. Their unity and teamwork are planned by God and are used by God as His army on earth. A person who believes they serve God better by disrespecting the local church is mistaken. It’s a little bit like trying to be in the army without being assigned to a specific unit, the war is fought by working with units, not individuals.
Notice when I speak of the unity of believers I emphasize the unity of the local church first, and the unity of the church universal second. If we believe there is disunity in the kingdom of God, because of the different denominations. And if we believe this disunity keeps God from fulfilling His work on earth, I think we have believed the devil’s false accusation upon the church. Our unity should be with our local fighting group, not the entire fighting force. God manages at that level and He probably doesn’t appreciate our jumping in to help.
Note, I am working with the assumption God directs a multitude of different churches and denominations. Within these groups there should be a very high level of doctrinal agreement. This agreement allows them to work together.
As long as a group or church keep to the essential doctrinal issues, we have no reason to challenge them. These issues would include the Trinity, the incarnation of Christ, The death burial and resurrection of Christ, and similar items. Unfortunately there are groups which claim these words but have abandoned the historic definition. Any movement to unify with these false doctrines is a part of the problem I am defining.
Syncretism is the idea all doctrines should be combined into one unified group, allowing all people on earth to have a single doctrinal stand. This plan does not accommodate the natural diversity in God’s creation. This plan fails to recognize infighting is created by the attempt, rather than squelched by it. And finally this plan doesn’t allow individuals to have a deeper commitment to a single fighting unit within the kingdom of God.
If we want to be a part of God’s work on earth the surest route is to seek which church God is calling us to be a part of and to make a commitment to it.