Mr. Frank Turk has an excellent post over at Pyromaniacs on the church. I especially love this section of his post:
Candles on a birthday cake vs. a city on a hill
"When Christ talks about who we are in him, he doesn’t say, “you are the light of the world, like little birthday cake candles which people will encounter here and there and I hope that’s enough to get the message across.”
Christ says instead this: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” You know: You-Plural. Y’all. The city on the hill and the light on the lamp stand is the church and not the individual believer. So our light shines before men when we are together being the people Jesus died to make us."
"So how do we carry that over into the real world 2000 years later? Should we then embrace whatever institution has risen up – should we not have had a reformation? Should we never-ever leave the local church?
The truth is that the Bible gives us a lot of liberty for the local church – with some guidelines. We should have elders who teach us the faith, reprove us when we are wrong, guard the word of God, love people, and train up new elders; we should follow them. We should bear one another’s burdens. We should stand against error but seek to reconcile brothers who are turning away from the faith. We should love one another. We should worship in spirit and in truth (and in good order).
After that, it’s sort of open as to how we administrate that.
But factually the church has to be a local body – full of real people. It has to be visible and distinct from Kiwanis, the Lion’s Club, and the temple of Athena. It should be calling people into Christ and therefore into itself."