Do Evangelicals believe in the church? or What ever happened to ecclesiology?

Periodically I am reminded of the fact that those of us who were raised in evangelical churches often have a woefully undeveloped ecclesiology (theology of the church). The vast majority of what I know about the church has been learned outside of the ecclesiastical milieu in which I was raised. Along with the triumph of consumerism, this lack of understanding about the nature and roll of the church as defined in Scripture is a major factor in the flightiness of evangelicals. We are a generation of church shoppers and hoppers. I have not been in the Philadelphia area long enough to make an informed judgment about the northeast. But I can tell you that in Texas and the lower Midwest it seems to be the new normal for church members to move their membership around as their felt needs change or their expectations go unsatisfied.

Scott Clark from Westminster Seminary California has written two articles addressing what he calls "Churchless Evangelicals." Specifically he deals with the growing phenomena of church attendees who profess faith in Christ but refuse to join a church. His comments are worth considering.

The doctrine of the church (and sacraments) is where most evangelicals, even predestinarian evangelicals, “hit the wall.” They come so far toward the Reformation but no farther. Why? The biblical and confessional doctrine of the church challenges two cultural assumptions of North American evangelicals and two of the most sacred idols of the culture: autonomy, i.e. the notion that one is a law unto oneself, and the evangelical (and liberal) love for a disembodied Jesus.

The doctrine of predestination is inherently antimodernist but one can become a predestinarian evangelical without really confronting the issue because autonomy gets shifted from soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) to ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church). Hunting down human autonomy is like trying grab hold of mercury. It keeps squirting away. So, the autonomy of the churchless evangelical, even after having surrendered to the sovereignty of God in salvation, squirts away to re-assert itself when it comes to the church.

Were these churchless evangelicals to unite themselves to a local church they should have to relinquish their autonomy. They should have to submit themselves not only to a particular expression of the historic church (which is distasteful enough) but they should also have submit themselves to a “church order” (a way of doing things) and to elders and to discipline. Even more fundamentally, they should have to agree and submit to “means” or media of grace, to a human ministry(administration) of the Gospel and the sacraments. No longer can Christianity be a purely private affair. It would now be public and it would entail being accountable to humans and being served by Christ through human ministry.
Read the entire article HERE.