I speak with people often who are “moving churches” or “between churches” or separating from a church” etc., etc. The reasons vary, from flat-out apostasy to “I just don’t feel…” and everything in between. There are many legitimate reasons for leaving a church or for moving on to another. For the most part those who are looking for a church are serious about church, which is why they are searching. But what many are searching for is an illusion couched in beautifully biblical language—to use the classic phrase—“a New Testament church.”
I say an illusion because many who use this phrase have never really thought about what a New Testament church looked like? It is not as cosy, welcoming, and loving as one might hope. Go to Corinth, for example, where the church was dealing with deep and sordid immorality, or to Colossi where they were shaken in the faith in danger of being led astray. What about Galatia where the purity of the gospel was challenged, or the church in Philippi where two of the women had a falling out that threatened the unity of the congregation? What about Thessalonica where the Christians were consumed with the end-times (sounds familiar) and were being deceived? The list goes on and on (see Revelation 2–3).
In short the proverbial “New Testament church” that you are searching for is like yourself—in transition and far from ideal. It has not yet arrived and therefore it is called “the church militant and not yet triumphant.” So, don’t fall into the trap of carping and criticising the church because of all of the faults and imperfections. I do not want to be simplistic, and I am not saying that every church problem can be condensed down to Philippians 1:18, but it is a good place to start. Paul said that despite the fact that people were proud, vindictive, jealous, self-serving, unloving and hurtful (welcome to the New Testament church), “Christ is preached and I therein do rejoice.”
Reading: “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.—Philippians 1:18