Three views on the church

Look at church history and you will see many repeated patterns. For instance, in every generation there are differing opinions regarding the church. First you have those who think the prevailing institutional church of their day is where it’s at. These folks are either unconcerned about the disparaging difference in form and appearance between the many churches of Christendom today and the churches of the first century, or they believe that what exists by and large nowadays represents the natural development an infant church to the more mature thing that exists in Christianity today. These are our more traditionally-minded brethren. 

In the next line you have the reformers. They sense the need for change-even radical change perhaps-but their way of going about it is by changing the structure from within. Rather than “bucking the system,” these brothers and sisters advocate using the system to achieve God’s end, though they themselves admit that the system itself is contrary to His design. Within this camp there are two kinds of reformers, the passive and agressive. Your passive reformer advocates for peace over any radical upheaval. He is willing to wait many long years if necessary to see gradual transformation take place. The aggressive reformer, on the other hand, says things need to change and they need to change now. For a good example of the difference between these two types see Erasmus and Luther during the time of the Reformation.   

Then go one more aisle over and you have the third bunch. Crazy lot, these people. Known throughout church history as “separatists” or “dissenters”, these brothers and sisters claim that in order for God’s end to really be reached we must go outside the camp entirely unto something wholly different. No point in trying to change the establishment, they say, but rather to start anew. Even among this group you might say there is somewhat of a distinction between the passive and aggressive. The passive brother is hesitant to join himself to any kind of visible expression of the church, perhaps for fear that it might become the same thing he once separated from in order to be one with all fellow believers (which is a healthy fear, I might add). The other brother says that though the risk may indeed be great, the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose demands a visible testimony. Therefore we must dare to come together as His Body-apart from all institutionalism and traditionalism-and gather regularly as a true expression of Christ’s church, as true an expression as is humanly possible at least.

So, what do you think? Is this a fair assessment of church history? Where do you fall in this lot? What are your reasons for feeling the way you do about the church and how she is to reach God’s end?


About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

13 responses to “Three views on the church

  • Ozzy

    I think it is a good synopsis from what I have observed within my 3 decades of church life. It seems to be representative of history, but I would not call myself an expert on church history.

    I don’t like to put myself in camps, but my growing understanding and revelation of God’s desire for his church has made me pursue an increasing organic and Christ-centred reality and expression of church. I value the church because she beats in the heart of Christ and the only way we, as the church, will grow up into the head (which is Christ) and mature is by sharing our lives and gathering regularly around Christ. This is a value for me.

    In terms of my personal church history, until recently, all the forms of church I have been involved in have been overly leadership-centred, being built largely on a church leadership model of some sort. I have come to learn that leadership is a gift (one of many) and that it should be recognised and celebrated as one of the many gifts and not raised up as the one essential gift. So, I am in the process of learning to live in the expression of Christ-centred church and no longer man’s expression of leadership-centred church.

    In my journey, your writings have been a huge encouragement. Keep it up.

  • Stefan

    When it comes to human opinions, there are so many “schools” about everything, and that includes the church. The three views above are just SOME of the many ways people want to relate themselves to the church.

    But my question and the Bible’s question and everyone’s question is: why not be just SIMPLE and meet according to what the Bible says? In Acts 2 we see, “from house to house, they partook of their food with exultation and simplicity of heart, praising God and having grace with all the people”. If we read the Bible and we are unveiled to see the divine revelation in the Bible, we will be un-complicated and un-opinionated!

    How much we need the Lord’s light to shine on us and bring us back to what the Bible says it is the proper / right way to meet and live….

  • bjcorbin

    I think that this is a pretty fair assessment. I would say that as long as I can find fellowship with those who genuinely love the Lord, feel called to His purposes and bear some amount of spiritual fruit, I tend to be a passive reformer. If that becomes unavailable, I would likely become a passive seperatist. The only thing that would cause me to become an agressive anything is the sense that the Lord was calling me to such a thing. Since we don’t war after the flesh, I like to save my aggression for the spiritual realm.

  • Steve Dines

    Having looked at the history of the word “church” it is my opinion that the term “organic church” is an oxymoron. If the “church” system(system = hierarchy, formal power and authority, mechanistic ways, predominance of one-way communication)became organic then the church (system) would cease to exist. After 20 years in the system (10 of those in “leadership” -I have repented of that)I have come to the conclusion that everything “church” is now either human or demonic. Jesus has left the church system building. There are two spiritual entities; the church system (the harlot and her daughters) and there is the body of Christ (wife of noble character). …. I have left the church system never to return, and I am dedicating myself to getting the body out of the church system and the church system out of the body…. the first step is to get the word “church” excluded from our vocabulary and repalce it with “Church system” for the system or “body of Christ” for the ekklesia.

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  • lawdawg23

    Thanks Ozzy. Well said on your point about leadership and the way it functions in the Body.

  • lawdawg23


    Amen! How we need the Lord’s light. Even the Bible, with all the uncomplicated truth it comtains, is closed to us until we have our own eyes opened by the Spirit of truth.

  • lawdawg23


    I had you pegged before you even answered, brother. 🙂 I would say the passive reformer is in many ways one of the nobler positions to take, and from what little I’ve gotten to know you (through your speaking and writing), I can say I respect your heart for the Lord very much.

  • lawdawg23


    Greetings and thanks for sharing! You bring up a whole slew of possible conversation with your comment. I agree the word church has been used and abused over the years. I think the word “assembly” would go a long way to help clear up the confusion in future translations of the scripture.

    I’m curious to hear your story, brother. You mentioned coming out of the system. What kind of a church life have you discovered since, on the positive end? Surely you would agree there is more to the purpose of the Lord than just getting His people “out.” That is preliminary. His eternal purpose lies not only in the coming out but in the going in to possess the land. Your thoughts?

  • Bobby (@reformedlostboy)


    right now I fall into the seperatist group because at the time I was called out, it would have been disobedience to stay. Lately I have been mourning over the immature and ignorant spiritual condition of the majority of church-goers and I wonder how incarnational (meeting them where they are) it would be become a little more of an aggressive reformer. Either way I’ll go where I’m led for I would rather do nothing than do something outside of the revealed will of God. God is enough for me and I rejoice in Him for beginning to build a house for Himself along with me and my family recently apart from any systems.

  • lawdawg23

    Hey Bobby,

    It’s great to hear things are developing where you’re at. It’s a wonderful thing to realize that unless the Lord builds the House those who labor do so in vain; even greater to get to participate with Him when He actually *is* doing the building.

  • andrew wehrheim

    It’s funny. For early believers the will of God was no mystery. Their purpose was to know the Lord and grow into Him by living and functioning in the Local Organic Church! The will of God was not five hundred separate things for 500 different believers. There was, “One hope of their calling.” Now, in that body there were different functions, different gifts, and different personalities. But all in the context of the one local church, never outside of it. Any thoughts anyone?

  • lawdawg23

    Good point, Andy. I’d be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this, too. The question is not, “what is God’s will for me?” but “what is God’s will?” period. Only then will our own lives make sense and only then will we be properly related to other brothers and sisters in our locale who may indeed have different giftings and callings, but who are part of the same Lord and the same Body.

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