Saturday, August 8, 2009

Can A Believer Not Belong to a Local Church?

Chris Brauns, author of Unpacking Forgiveness, (reviewed here by Paul Adams) has a provocative post asking "Can someone be a believer and yet not be committed to a local church (on the misapplication of the doctrine of the invisible church)?" Brauns presses hard against the notion that a Christian can just avoid being a member of a local church.

He says, "The Bible is clear. Christians are called to be mortared into the life of a church where the Word is proclaimed, the sacraments are properly administered, and discipline is practiced. Indeed, it is characteristic of the regenerate that they will be part of a local church. Quacking doesn’t make you a duck. But, ducks do quack. A commitment to a local church doesn’t make a Christian, but Christians are committed to a church."

A couple of the comments pushed right back and Brauns agreed that the nuances provided were appropriate but that the post "was pushing on one side of the issue." Those who need to hear Brauns most are those who are cavalier about the importance of joining a church. For any number of reasons believers can find themselves without membership in a particular church. Those who commented gave some good examples. Having said that there are too many who have discarded church as having any real importance in their lives.

Brauns quotes David Wells on the doctrine of the "invisible church" which said, in part, the intent of the doctrine was never to "make what was visible unimportant." Well said.

For another perspective see the comments by Jeff on Scripture Zealot here. Also, see the comments by Mike Wittmer on Evangelical Ecclesiology and his new found love for a new book from Brazos Press by Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger called Exploring Ecclesiology.

UPDATE 8/8/08 - Brauns has provided a second post which helps clarify his position in the light of the "exceptions" which exist.


Paul said...

Thanks, Louis, for chiming in here. I'm glad to see Chris's responses and follow-up post. As usual, he handles the concerns raised with the greatest of pastoral ease and oozes grace at every turn. At the same time, his commitment to the issues raised are unwavering.

Chris Brauns said...

Thanks for the link. I have a post on the Harper and Metzer book coming out next week. I ordered it per Mike Wittmer and think it is an excellent book.

Scripture Zealot said...

Thanks for the mention and for all the interesting links. I'll be reading them.