The Bible clearly teaches that as Christians we should not be divisive in our diversity. There are many teachers, and within the Church there are many different spiritual gifts given. The Corinthians were corrected (among other things) for creating factions based on their favorite teachers. (I Cor. 3:1-18)
We believers should always remember that we are not just a part of a local congregation, or denomination, but that we are apart of the global body of Christ.
Yet, I think some are very misguided in their attempts to apply this: Does this mean that we should never invite anyone to a specific church, and instead just tell people to “go and find a church” because there is more than one good church in town? Does this mean that we should hop from one congregation to the next and never establish long term commitments to real flesh-and-blood people? Does this mean that it’s OK for us to move on to another church whenever we find a better “flavor”? I know some people who live just this way, and I think it’s insane!
While probably well-intended, I think such attempts to be “Kingdom minded” are rather unhelpful to the cause of Christ. We can learn from a variety of teachers and leaders, and have an appreciation for what is happening beyond the bounds of our own congregation/organization/denomination, but there is something that we loose when we commitment to a local congregation and a holy appreciation for that group is lost.
As Paul said, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (I Corinthians 4:15, ESV). Paul acknowledged that there were many legitimate teachers out there, but contended that his relationship with the Corinthian church was a special one. It’s OK, to have a special place in your heart for your church or leader, in fact it’s actually right that you do!
When I talk about my appreciation for my parents I don’t immediately feel the need to back-pedal and immediately follow any compliment with some statement like “I know there are lots of other great parents out there too”. (Of course there are!!?? ) But I love MY parents, and there is nothing wrong with that! When I invite people over to my house for dinner, I don’t feel the need to let them know that there are lots of other families in the city also eating dinner as well. I don’t tell the person I just invited that they may just want to wander around the city and randomly visit other families dinners instead of just coming to mine. (Yet that is exactly how awkward some people are when it comes to inviting people to church!) No, I am secure enough to just simply invite them to my house and leave it at that.
We should be able to commit to the place and the people that God has placed us with, and act confidently in that, while at the same time valuing those around us. God will place people in the body as He desires, but we must not forget that we have a part in that. Passivity, disloyalty and refusal-to-commit are not fruits of the Spirit!
I should also point out that, what we see modeled in the discipleship relationship between Paul and Timothy did not emerge out of such lack of commitment and focus. It came out of a commitment from Paul to specifically help mentor Timothy, and a willingness of Timothy to receive instruction and build together with Paul. While there is much to be gained from watching church services online, listening to podcasts, reading the latest books of well known pastors, and even connecting with people from other local ministries there is something that you cannot get except by life-on-life connection with another human being as you commit to discipleship in a specific group and with a specific person. Our lack of intentionality masked as “Christian Unity” will not produce the kind of fruit that God would have for our lives.
When we fail to value and commit to the local church that God has placed us everyone loses. We miss out on the blessings of the growth that could have happened in us and we miss out on on what God could have collectively done through us if we had been willing to commit and serve.