The conventional wisdom these days in our society is to say that the institutional church is old hat, out of date and doesn’t matter any more in these “modern times.”
That’s why I am happy there are people like Kevin deYoung, who sets the record straight for us in his insightful book co-written by Ted Kluck, Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion:
The church, as the elect people of God, is both organism and organization. The church is a breathing, growing, maturing, living thing. It is also comprised of a certain order (1 Cor. 14:40), with institutional norms (5:1-13), doctrinal standards (15:1-2), and defined rituals (11:23-26). The two aspects of the church—organism and organization—must not be played off against each other, for both are grounded in the operations of the glorified head of the church through the Holy Spirit. Offices and gifts, governance and the people, organization and organism—all these belong together. They are all blessings from the work of Christ. (p. 170).
The structure, order and governance of the institutional church is important to the development of the faith and in helping the faithful to serve in specific ways that are in line with their God-given gifts and abilities. The church as an institution defines us and reminds us of who we are and whose we are through regular worship, the recitation of the Creed, the gathering for baptisms and the providing of our Savior’s body and blood in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper.
So much in our world today is defined by what is fun, what makes us feel good, what is exciting and new. But that is not what the Church is designed to provide. The Church is meant to show us our sins, to remind us our need for repentance and our forgiveness in Christ, things our world is not all that willing to face. So it is no surprise that there is resistance to the concept of organized church. But the ultimate goal is far beyond the immediate desire for instant gratification. The ultimate goal of the Church is to show us our salvation—life eternal with Christ forevermore. I can think of no other thing that is more fun, makes me feel as good or is more exciting and new than that.
So with this in mind, let us follow the advice of St. Paul who said this, long before our “modern” era: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near ” (Hebrews 10:23-25).