When people encounter new things, their first tendency is to fit them into existing categories. If truth be told, most of us shy away from strange and unusual things that don't fit our expectations. It reminds me of a Northerner who ate his first tamale by peeling down the husk and eating it like a banana. I saw another try to actually eat the corn husk with a knife and fork! If we don't know better, we'll draw wrong conclusions about the true nature of things based on personal experiences or cultural norms.
The Bible portrays the church as something strange and unusual. But many Christians approach the local church in ways that conform more to the patterns of the world than to the pattern of God's Word. Like mad scientists piecing together a monster from countless incompatible pieces without a clear pattern or guiding principle, too many Christians today have re-created the church after their own imaginations, according to their own likes and dislikes. Clustered around this mutant creature falsely called "church," proponents propagate four common myths that help keep the beast alive—four untruths that have become so accepted by many evangelicals that they believe them without question. But the time has come to refute the myths and slay the monster, replacing it with a corporate body reflecting marks and works of authenticity and created according to God's image for the church.
Myth 1: The church is merely a human organization
Though comprised of humans, the church itself is not merely a human organization. Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and the church is mystically his spiritual and physical body on earth (Eph. 1:22–23; 5:23; Col. 1:18). While we may distinguish the spiritual and physical aspects of the church, we must never separate them. Too often evangelicals have divorced the spiritual, heavenly, invisible, and eternal church from its physical, earthly, visible, historical manifestation. The result has been to treat local, visible churches as merely human organizations rather than as unique conduits through which God works his heavenly, spiritual purposes in history. Such dichotomizing has allowed Christians to treat their churches as they treat other human organizations—like a political party or a club.
In the world's political realm, if we don't like what our party stands for or if we lose confidence in its candidates, we just run against them, vote them out, or change the platform. If things get too bad, we can join another party or start our own. But in 1 Corinthians 3:3–4, Paul reprimands the church for taking sides and forming parties.
Neither should we treat the church like a club, with members who direct the organization according to the will of the majority. These Latin words are engraved in the Minnesota state capitol building: VOX POPULI, VOX DEI—"The Voice of the People Is the Voice of God." Many Christians act like the church should be run by majority rule. However, after Israel demanded a king "like all the nations" to rule over them (1 Sam. 8:20), God told his prophet Samuel, "Obey their voice and make them a king" (8:22). By listening to the voice of the people, Israel ended up with just what they asked for: a king like the nations' rather than a king of God's own choosing. In the case of King Saul, the voice of the people was not the voice of God.
There is something supernatural about the church. It's made up of people who have otherwise nothing in common. It's not united by political constitutions, common interest, or corporate bylaws. It's united by the Spirit of God around the person and work of Jesus Christ pursuing a common mission in the world.