A few thoughts and comparisons between the universal church, which is all saved people....and....the local church meeting.
1. There are no unsaved people in the universal church, but there are unsaved people in local churches..
2. All believers are immersed into the universal church, which began in Acts 2. There was no local nor universal church prior to the resurrection of Christ. There was no church in the Old Testament, there was a congregation, but no NT Assembly.
3. Some true believers are not partaking in a local church at all, or some are doing so in an unhealthy destructive way. Yet if born again, they are part of the universal church.
4. Rome is right that there is one universal church. But Rome is utterly wrong in saying that universal church is Roman Catholicism. Acts 2:47 tells us God added to the assembly (church) daily those who were being saved. Only saved people constitute the universal church-scripture has defined this for us.
5. Protestantism is wrong in its division into hundreds of sects. The Reformation was a movement of God, but Protestantism was not.
6. A person enters the universal church by the new birth alone.
7. A person enters into fellowship in the local church by their own will and acceptance by that local church, and each person is responsible to help maintain the unity of the body locally, while building up one another via love and the gifts God has given.
8.The Christian is responsible for the local church, God is responsible for the universal church. To understand this would stop much of the ungodly ecumenical movement which is predicated on compromise and not based on the truth.
9. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the universal church.
10. Not every local group that calls itself a church is a church. Some are cults, some perhaps even have no saved people attending meetings.
11. Church is not something you "go" to, despite what the culture thinks. "Going to church" doesn't make up for a single sin, nor balance the scales in our favor.
12. The word church is from the english kirk which refers to the building. "Assembly" is a better term than church, for it describes what is happening when the church meets....which is....they are gathered or assembled unto HIM.
13. God gave no names to the church, and to take a name other than Christ is sectarian. (ie...Roman Catholic, Baptist, Brethren, Methodist, Charismatic).
14. The church universal is the bride of Christ and is precious to Him. The local church should endeavor to be in microcosm locally what the universal church already IS in God's sight. We do well to remember the church is that pearl of great price that was purchased with precious blood.
15. The local church is not equivalent to the synagogue or temple. This would help clear up some confusion about giving. The tithe is Judaism not Christian. (Yet this is not an excuse to not give, on the contrary-it elevates giving to a higher level).
16. The born again believer's heart should be as wide and open as possible in love to all who share life in Christ. Yet the believer should practice in local fellowship that which is scriptural and therefore be much tighter. The difficulty is to maintain a broad heart in love to ALL believers, while maintaining the truth and separation from evil. Great grace is needed to not stray into phariseeism nor liberalism.
17. Plurality of eldership, and, a biblical practice of priesthood of all believers are two characteristics of the local church often misunderstood. The one-man ministry and all-men ministries are equal problems. A special priesthood is characteristic of Judaism and to pull that kind of priesthood into the assembly is a gross error.
18. The local church is God's "seminary" to train up future leaders. To utilize an official man-ordained seminary or bible school at times can perhaps be helpful but seminaries are not the church, and when a seminary goes bad, so do its products. Taking young men out of the local church to "train" them is denominationalism. At times training due to weakness in an area is needed - but this should not be a long term pattern.
19. The local church sends out missionaries, by "loosing" them to do the Lord's work. There is no biblical body that oversees the movements of the mission worker, as he/she is responsible to God for the where and when of ministry. To place a body over that individual is to leave a scriptural pattern. The early church in Acts, loosed its servants, it did not micromanage and control them.
20. Traveling Christians should take a letter of introduction from their elders, introducing them, confirming their status as believers, when visiting another local church, and be presented to the elders with regard to fellowshipping with that congregation.
21. The universal body is one, united, and every born again person will have the privilege at the marriage of the lamb to view Him, for HE is the center. In human marriages it is often the bride that is the attraction. Not so in this relationship, for the center is the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ.
22. Reception is the biblical pattern for the local church. Reception and fellowship both. In the universal church there is membership, when one is born again they are made a member of Christ, the universal church.