I guess it was inevitable. Last week, I urged Christians to stop following Christian leaders like author and speaker Donald Miller, who don’t attend church. And, then I received e-mails and Facebook comments taking me to task, saying “Church is who we are, not where we go.” Plus, who’s to say Miller’s community of Christian friends doesn’t constitute a church? After all, in a post entitled, “Church Anywhere and Everywhere,” Miller describes once doing communion with his friends “on a loading dock using hot chocolate and cookies” – and conducting impromptu baptisms under a waterfall.
Normally, I respond to these comments individually. But, since these views are so prevalent, I decided to address them here.
Now, I agree that all believers everywhere constitute the Church. As Scripture says, “We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body.” But, church is also a local, gathering body. Acts 2 talks about the early church meeting together regularly for teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer. And, when speaking about how to treat an immoral brother, the Apostle Paul says, “(W)hen you are assembled . . . hand this man over to Satan.” You see, the church is not just an ethereal reality; it’s a tangible body that provides spiritual nurture and discipline. And, contrary to Donald Miller’s opinion, it is not optional.
St. Cyprian wrote, “He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother.” Similarly, theologian N.T. Wright notes, “Christianity is a team sport. . . . The Christian virtues, supremely faith, hope and love . . . are designed to produce communities in which each individual has (his) own unique part to play, but within a much larger whole.”
But, what about defining the church as a loose collection of Christians who improvise when it comes to baptism and communion? Admittedly, this cavalier approach to the sacraments makes me cringe. But also, to qualify as a biblical church, a group needs at bare minimum to meet regularly for worship and have defined leadership. But, Miller doesn’t even try to argue that his community of friends constitutes a church. He simply suggests that church is superfluous to his life and to the private spiritual agendas of him and his friends. That is patently unbiblical – and again, not a view that anyone who purports to be a Christian leader should ever espouse.