Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

Visible Versus invisible church




I have spoken often about the institutional church. What do I mean in referring to the church as an institution? According to the dictionary an institution is an organization promoting an aim or a cause, often through education. An organization is a group of people with a leadership hierarchy and an agreed program or procedure for pursuing a goal. Many within Christianity object to the idea that their faith is institutional because it suggests that many facets of that faith are man derived. In that respect, we often hear about two different aspects of the church: the local, visible church or congregation which bears the marks of an earthly organization and the larger invisible church which is supposedly comprised of the membership of all the "correct" local congregations. Thus, the local church, despite its obvious similarity to many other humanly conceived organization (hierarchy, physical facilities, financial apparatus, and established programs), can claim to be a necessary element of a grander divinely ordained group. In this regard we often hear of a visible and an invisible church, the one being the local group and the latter being the all encompassing one.


With all the emphasis that Christianity attaches tot he local congregation, we should expect that Jesus would have much to say about that group, its practices, and structure. In fact, we see exactly the opposite. Jesus only used the term church twice in all the Gospels and there is no indication that he used it in an institutional sense. A careful look at the teachings of Jesus will demonstrate that He spoke endlessly about an imminent, invisible kingdom.


As much as Jesus taught the immediacy and invisibility of the kingdom, the church blithely ignores those facts and teaches something different in its own defense. The supposed distinction between a visible and invisible church or kingdom is not supportable biblically or logically. Jesus taught nothing about a visible church and much about the invisible kingdom. The fact that Paul addressed his ministry to local groups called churches, actually "ecclesias", cannot alter the words and emphasis of Jesus. Whatever the 1st century "ecclesia" may have been or whatever its purpose, it most certainly was nothing like our present day visible church with all its trappings of institutional religion. God's purpose in Christ could not logically be to inject an organization of human intermediaries into the spiritual relationship of every man, but that is precisely what the so called visible church represents .