The Church vs. the church; Authority and Influence
One of the most confused and muddled relationships today is “The Church” vs. “the church”. There is a often lost distinction between The Church as the body of Christ and the church as a legal entity and people need to be aware that merging the two distinct entities negatively impacts our overall mission and influence.
“The Church” refers to the entire body of Christians who have placed their hope in the salvation in the work of Jesus Christ and have placed their lives under the authority of Jesus Christ as Lord. It is the entire body of believers; past, present, and future; here, there, everywhere. The Church is under the direct authority of God the Father, through the Kingship of Jesus Christ, and by the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It has access to all power and promises available in the Bible. The Church is the body of believers called to be ambassadors and to actively represent God in the world until Jesus Christ returns to reign. Lastly, it is an eternal body that will last for eternity.
“The church” refers to an organization operating under legal restrictions set by civil government. Many churches face additional organizational requirements placed upon them by denomination organizations as well. The church is limited and finite. It is usually restricted to a geographic area and consists of a limited number of people.
From my experience, when most people use the term church they are referring to a church organization and not to The Church. We most often think about a place or organization. This tendency is revealed in questions such as: “What church do you attend?”, “What does your church believe about…?”. Focusing on the church instead of The Church is problematic in several ways.
Wrong Authority Focus; Wrong Influence
The focus on church elevates a finite, legally limited organization over the infinite, unlimited Church. When we focus on church we unwittingly allow limitations to unduly influence actions. People wrongfully use IRS imposed limitations as excuses for them to not engage in civil government. They extend civil government imposed regulations on legal church entities to Christian daily life. They allow the civil government to limit their Christian influence. This significantly and wrongfully limits the influence of The Church.
“The Church” compared to “the church”
|The Church||The church|
|God is ultimate authority||Operates under civil government authority|
|Unlimited in power and scope||Limited and controlled|
|Eternal, everlasting||Finite, will end|
|Perfect and Holy||Fallible and imperfect|
|Unified body||Fractured and split|
The church Often Self-Censor Themselves
Allowing civil government regulations on the church to override Church authority places the message and preaching of The Church under the influence and jurisdiction of civil government. In order to “not appear political” churches remain silent on issues that are in direct opposition to Gods design: value of life, marriage, gender, sexual immoral actions, etc. They remain silent on issues God is clearly concerned about.
The Enemy is quick to fill the deafening church silence in the culture and civil government. As a result, The Church has lost influence and the Enemy has had his way, destroying God’s design for marriage, God’s design of gender, and God’s value of life from conception to death. The Enemy is even having his way on increasingly limiting and curtailing the freedom to exercise one’s religious convictions in public. The Church, as a direct result of self-censoring churches, is silent, gagged, and not influential. This cannot and must not be!
The Result is a Perverted, Sinless Gospel
A direct result of church vs. Church focus is many churches now preach a polluted, limited gospel where unconditional love and acceptance is not balanced with a proper understanding of sin and the need for genuine repentance that leads to eternal salvation.
The world pursues lives filled with “…sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these… (Galatians 5: 19-21)”. It is difficult, if not impossible, to address sinful behavior when the church is pandering to and being influenced by the culture and a civil government that reflects the world. This is a direct result of having a church instead of Church focus.
Individual Christians Create Excuses to Disengage
Many individual Christians wrongfully apply civil government regulations on the church to their lives. Individuals who have every freedom, every right, and every responsibility to engage in policy and legislative discussion use church restrictions as excuses to restrict their own lives. As a reminder, IRS guidelines have no bearing on individual Christians. However, many continue to use these restrictions as an excuse. This must stop.
Preeminence of The Church
Christians must place preeminence on The Church while operating within the confines of the church. To be certain, the church is a vital organizational body created to accomplish God’s will; however, the existence and administration of the church can never supersede The Church mission…ever.
Individual Christians need to remember we are first and foremost part of The Church that operates in a church. Do not allow worldly imposed limitations upon the church to affect our actions, our words, or our mission to serve our Lord and Savior.
The Need for Church Engagement
Understand that our nation was founded with an absolute need for positive Christian influence upon the culture and upon elected leaders. George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”. John Adams said, “It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.” These phrases were uttered during a period where the terms “religion” and “morality” were synonymous with Christianity.
The Church operates under the sole authority and guidance of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The church operates under the authority of the law and as such under limitations. Ultimately, The Church supersedes the church in the lives and actions of Christians.