There are 111 mentions of the word 'church' in the New Testatment. Fifty five of these refer to the local church or 'household' as it is referred to by the apostles. The word 'household' is used because the believers gathered in each others homes for worship and fellowship. These references deal with how to conduct relationships, how to exercise discipline when needed, and how to get along in the course of daily affairs.
Twenty eight of these references deal with the universal church. These refer to the entire body of believers at all times. They depict Christ as the head of the body, the bridegroom to the church, and they invoke the relationship between Christ and His bride as a model for Christian marriage. They refer to individual believers as the 'Temple' of God since the Holy Spirit resides in all believers. They urge the equipping of the saints to strengthen the body. These passages deal with the battle between Christ and Satan in the spiritual realm, and they also give a preview of the church in heaven where the departed saints have gone to reign.
Eighteen passages address how the believers are to conduct themselves when they come together for worship. These passages set out the rules for orderly and God-honoring worship.
Only seven passages deal with church organization. Here is where there is a great departure from modern church practices. Today's Christian leaders focus on the organization. The church has become an economic enterprize for them. Numerical growth is their number one priority because it vallidates their ministry and it pays the bills. They are obsessed with the means and methods that produce the most growth.
The leading pastors have made their mark using modern marketing and church growth techniques. They have produced significant numerical growth by using the same marketing methods an American corporation employs to sell products. In so doing, they have transformed the local church from a body of believers growing together into Christ to a spiritual version of a mega-mall or big box store. Those who have built the biggest stores get to teach others their strategies and techniques. The New Testament church, on the other hand, grew organically, drawing people into their fellowship by their genuine love for one another.
Listen to one marketing guru who wrote an article for the Christian Leadership Alliance on how to reach a particular target market :
"It takes seven to nine touches for the average prospect to register your ministry as one they would engage. But imagine if a Millennial's favorite band stops in the middle of their set and plugs your ministry. It is pretty safe to say that the majority of the people in the crowd will remember you with that one touch point. Your talkability factor will increase because of your affiliation with the Millennial's favorite band."
This is no joke! This man is serious about reaching a group of young people called "millenials" by plugging the church during one of their concerts! What he means is how to get them to attend church, not how to win them to Christ. His concern is to secure the future of the institution, since many from this generation have abandoned the church. He is not unlike the money changers whom Jesus drove out of the temple because they had turned God's house into a business establishment.
Once when I was out of work I asked my pastor if he would let me network in the church for employment. Many churches have networking groups for the unemployed, so I didn't consider my request out of line. His response was, "If we allow you to look for work in the church and it results in a bad match, that would be a poor reflection on the church!" I asked him, "Which church do you mean - the one on Seminary Street or the body of Christ?" This man was not your average run of the mill seminary graduate. He was an author of numerous commentaries and inspirational books on Christian living. Yet his concept of the church was fundamentally flawed. It is an indication of just how far afield we have come when someone who is so mistaken about something as fundamental as the nature of the church can gain such notoriety in the Christian world.