This Canvas focuses on what the Bible teaches about the institution of the Church and how that informs the way we act as members of local churches. But because anyone can start a church (and we have plenty of evidence that, really, anyone can), “church” needs to be defined.

This discussion does not address churches that follow leaders who require individuals to be loyal and obedient to them, and not – ultimately and unmistakably – obedient to Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture. So many people have experienced abuse emotionally, financially or sexually at the hands of authority figures who present themselves as quasi-saviours, leaders who are not themselves in submission to the true Lord.

There are also churches where teachers do not follow Christ’s teachings, nor do they entirely believe the prophets who foretold him and the witnesses who wrote about him. “Churches” that don’t acknowledge the Bible’s authority or teach it faithfully aren’t spreading the power of God for salvation. They have created their own counterfeit.

This discussion doesn’t address those leaders or institutions. We are asking how we ought to relate to our own flawed but true churches, ones that are rarely as messy as the New Testament congregations that Paul scolded and affirmed, bodies that are just as precious to God. These churches are founded on his Word, and they call us to worship and obey the person of Jesus Christ.

If that sounds like the church you are part of, then no further disclaimer is needed.