By Travis Lauterbach
Pastors often hear people say, “The Church is a man-made institution.”
Usually this comes from at least two attitudes.
One results from a person being deeply hurt in some way, shape, or form by a local congregation.
Because all people are sinners, local congregations aren’t immune to sin. Rather, since the local congregation is a gathering of believers, the hurt feelings of any situation will increase that much more.
Someone who has been hurt in a local congregation and then leaves, may potentially say that the Church is man-made to help cope with what happened.
The other attitude wants to justify not attending the local congregation.
So is the Church man-made or not? In one sense the answer is no, but in another sense the answer is- totally.
The Church isn’t man-made in the sense that a group of men and women got together and created this institution which binds people to all sorts of behaviors and rituals that is called “church.”
The Church is man-made in the sense that it was instituted by a man who is also God. A God-man, Jesus Christ, created the Church.
Jesus told His disciples, “On this rock I will build my Church” (Matthew 16:18). So as the famous hymn sings, “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord.”
But what is “the Church?” Many people, hearing that word, think of a building.
The word church, as Jesus used it, means “assembly or gathering.” It’s the gathering of believers. Scripture uses the word “church” to mean people.
Paul says, “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24).
In that passage, not only is the Church the people, but it’s Christ’s body.
The church is the gathering and body of believers in Christ who join together around God’s Word. So if the gathering ceases, there’s no church, no body.
Thus, the writer of Hebrews encourages believers “not to neglect to meet together” (Hebrews 10:25).
How can this possibly work in a gathering full of sinners? Confession of sins and forgiveness.