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Pointers along the way #620

Where is the true church?

- Jacob Ninan

'Mainline churches' take pride in their ancestry and look down on 'free churches' that are sprouting all around them. Some churches do split based on personality clashes and remain minor variations of the old. But many churches come up because of the desire of people to plant churches after getting theological qualifications or spiritual experiences. Many churches claim to be the true churches of Jesus Christ on the basis of emphasising some particular aspect of doctrine. For example, some teach strongly on the body of Christ and then claim that they are the body of Christ on earth. Some point out that in the early church there was only one church in any locality and then claim that they are the local church in their locality. Some try to follow the new testament pattern of a church and say they are the true church. Some major on signs and wonders and claim they are the ones in which Jesus is truly working. Some cults have come into existence as a result of revelations that the leader claims to have received.

If we just think of it we can see how silly it is to claim to be true church based merely on some doctrines. Of course we need right doctrines because they guide our practice, but the sad fact is that doctrines can be very lofty while people in such churches can be just like everyone else. In such a case, things are actually pretty bad in the church while the people in the church are under a delusion to imagine they are the true church. People there can see things that are not right, but they stay on because they don't want to leave the true church!

Jesus said that it was love among the people of the church for one another that would distinguish them from others as belonging to Jesus (Jn.13:35). This love is not the same as the usual loyalty people show to others in their group. Jesus was talking of an agape love as Paul further described in 1Co.13. This is actually the fruit of the Spirit (Ga.5:22,23) into which we have to grow. This growth takes place when the teachings in the church provide the direction but also as the people learn to depend on the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives rather than mere doctrines.

When a church begins to take pride in their doctrines without leaning practically on the Spirit, they become dead, and when another church depends supposedly on the Spirit without being guided by right doctrines they go off into tangents.

Is it right for any local church to claim that they are the true church in that place? Isn't it necessary for churches, even if they consider that their doctrines and practices are right, to recognise that they are only a small part of a worldwide entity called the church which is the collection of all the people who are born again and have become a part of the kingdom of God? As such, doesn't every 'church' need to be connected to other churches in order to receive and to give what is missing in that church? Not ecumenism but a recognition of interdependence?


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