“I don’t need to be a member of a local church because I am a member of the universal church.”
“I am more interested in the capital C ‘Church,’ and not as much the lower case C ‘church.'”
Have you ever heard anything like that? It’s not uncommon. There are quite a few folks who believe their love for the “universal church” or the “invisible church” makes it unnecessary for them to bother with some local church in their area. Warren Wiersbe once told a story about such a man:
A free-lance missionary visited a pastor friend of mine asking for financial support. “What group are you associated with?” my friend asked.
The man replied, “I belong to the invisible church.”
My friend then asked, “Well, what church are you a member of!”
Again he got the answer, “I belong to the invisible church!”
Getting a bit suspicious, my friend asked, “When does this invisible church meet? Who pastors it?”
The missionary then became incensed and said, “Well, your church here isn’t the true church. I belong to the invisible church!”
My friend replied, “Well, here’s some invisible money to help you minister to the invisible church!”
(Taken from Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 38). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
I want that story to bring us to a simple point: a true love for and membership in the universal church is most clearly displayed in one’s love for and membership in a local church. If we say we love “the universal church” without having a meaningful membership in a local church, then we probably love nothing more than an idea. And it doesn’t take much Bible reading to realize that Jesus doesn’t call us to love an idea, but actual flesh and blood people who call on His Name (John 13:34).