The universal church is a heavenly and eschatological assembly of everyone—past, present, and future—who belongs to Christ’s new covenant and kingdom. A local church is a mutually-affirming group of new covenant members and kingdom citizens, identified by regularly gathering together in Jesus’ name through preaching the gospel and celebrating the ordinances.
The New Testament word translated into English as “church” (ekklesia) means assembly, and the New Testament envisions two kinds of assemblies: one in heaven and many on earth. These two kinds are the universal and local church, respectively. To become a Christian is to become a member of the universal church, whereby God raises us up with Christ and seats us in the heavenly place. Yet membership in the heavenly assembly must “show up” on earth, which Christians do by gathering together in the name of Christ through the preaching of the gospel and mutually affirming one another as belonging to him through the ordinances. The heavenly universal church, in other words, creates earthly local churches, which in turn display the universal church. Christians throughout history have sometimes emphasized the local or the universal church to the neglect of the other, but a biblical posture emphasizes both. Such a posture entails pursuing one’s individual discipleship in a local church, but a local church that partners with other churches.
The question arises from a heart serious about God’s Word, serious about obedience, and serious about worship. Do we sin when we fail to meet?
Whenever you send missionaries, you are exporting a doctrine of the church. And we need to stop exporting bad ecclesiology.
Worship sets that invite comparisons to music videos or late-night talk shows won’t serve us well in the long run.
You should be a church with small groups, not a church of small groups. The center of church life is the whole gathering, not the small groupings.
True unity demands that we grow up in our thinking about doctrine and truth and fellowship.
Remembering who I'm saved to be in the context of the body of Christ helps deal with my prideful independence.
Come and see a renewed vision of the church. Go and be a renewed community called the church.
Read this book if you’re looking for a good history of ecclesiology; don’t read it if you’re looking for a doctrinal and ministerial path forward for evangelicals.
A go-to resource on the doctrine of the church that will be a blessing to all who read it.
‘The Church’ is probably the best contemporary introduction to Baptist ecclesiology.