Local Church vs. Universal Church

Just recently a friend of mine and I were discussing the theory of the universal church. I know there is a good bit of confusion with some people, but I got stirred up and began noting down reasons for why I believe in the local church vs. the universal church. Here are a few of those reasons why I believe the Bible teaches and stresses the importance of the local church:



  • Bible commands us to attend faithfully – Heb. 11:24-25 (why would it tell us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves if it was family instead of church, we are with family anyway)


  • God’s house is called house of prayer – Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Lu 19:46


  • Church is where missionaries are sent out of – Acts 13


  • Church has authority to baptize – Mt 28:19-20; Philip was sent with authority from church in Acts


  • Church is where we give Tithe – Mal 3:10; I Cor. 16:1-2


  • Faith Promise and other giving is given thru the church – Philip 4:17; II Cor 8-9


  • Church Trains and Equips Christians and leaders – Eph. 4:11-12


  • Church Has authority to Discipline – Mt 18:15-17


  • Church Has authority to perform Lord’s supper – Acts 2 they met together in houses and in I Cor. 11:18, 20 says when “gathered together”. Christ did this for first time (Mt 26) with His disciples, representing church


  • Church is Pillar and ground of Truth – I Tim 3:15 – where we have pure, sound doctrine


  • Church is Place where Pastor Serves – I Tim 3; Titus 1; I Peter 5


  • Church is Place where Deacons Serve – I Tim 3; Titus 1; first time deacons were mentioned (most likely) was Acts 6, helping the church


  • Church is Place we invite people to so they can hear Word of God, grow in Lord, refuge from world


  • Church is where and what the first Christians were added to in Acts 2


  • God gave gifts (I Cor. 12) to individuals for the edifying of the church


  • Great commission was given to the church – Mark 16:15; Mt 28:18-20


  • God calls the individual Christians members of the body, which is the church


  • Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25), founded the church (Mt 16:18; I Cor. 3:11), is head of church (Eph. 5:23; Col 1:18); purchased her with His blood (Acts 20:28) and is glorified in the church (Eph. 3:20-21)


  • In the OT – temple to go to – take offering, where priests served, where God’s presence was at, where ark of covenant was


  • In NT, God’s method of getting the Gospel out is thru the church, the NT work of Christ revolves around the church. God gives instruction to His church thru His Word. Epistles were mainly all written to churches.


  • Out of 112 or so times Bible uses word “church”, it is speaking of a local body of Christians. Word “ekklesia” means called out assembly, not family.


  • Assembly suggests the following:
  1. Implies its local – church of Galatia, Thessalonica, Ephesus, …
  2. Implies it visible – you could see the congregations Paul was talking about
  3. Implies Organization – God is a God of order and has placed order in the church – gave position of leadership (pastor and deacons), gave purpose (fulfill Great Commission), gave authority (baptize, Lord’s supper)


  • People do not agree the church is local vs. universal because:
  1. Don’t understand teaching/emphasis on church in Bible
  2. Don’t want accountability – a pastor to tell them what to do, place need to belong to, people who see and watch their lives
  3. Put emphasis on wrong thing – themselves, their family, work, money, etc. Family is not to take place of church and goes against Scriptural principle of authority (Christ placing pastor to watch over their souls – Heb. 13), but it also teaches children and others that church is not important. Wrongly placing priorities has harmful repercussions.


  • Why a Leader Must know what he believes:
  1. His beliefs affect his family – wife and kids will think less (max 80%) of church as he does
  2. His beliefs affect his life and ministry – why start other churches if don’t believe in the local church?
  3. His beliefs affect future leaders – if don’t believe in local church, why train leaders? What are you training leaders for? Where are they going to exercise their ministry? What are they going to start once they are ready to leave your church?



Here to Serve,

Jeff Bush

General Director of Vision Baptist Missions


4 Replies to “Local Church vs. Universal Church”

  1. I strongly believe in both concepts, however, I do not use the term “universal” church, but “corporate”, as the term “universal” implies some sort of etheral hodgepodge. I think of it like this: The Church is one Body of Christ (corporate). Christ has only one body. Local churches are visible manifestations of the one Body of Christ, not multiple bodies of Christ.
    An analogy would be a large international corporation: there is only one Corporation, but it is represented in multiple locations all around the world.
    I have seen results that when local churches believe that each “local church” is the body, vs. part of the the body, division and strife ensues between churches of like mind, doctrine, and practice ensues (i.e. many independent baptist churches compete or have no fellowship with each other).
    So, yes local churches are extremely important in God’s plan, but they are visible representation of members of one body, referred to in scripture as “the Body of Christ”. (Romans 7:4, 1 Cor 10:16, 1 Cor 12:27, Ephesians 4:12)
    Just some food for thought . . . Appreciate the ministry of Vision Baptist Missions – our church (Cherryvale Baptist, Sumter, SC) supports multiple young couples sent out by your mission

    1. Hello pastor,

      Thanks for writing. I appreciate you taking the time to write and agree with what you said. The article was not written from an argumentative standpoint nor a “this-only-position” standpoint as may have interpreted. The thought was spurred from a practical standpoint for missionaries who are going to be church planters. I wanted our missionaries to realize the importance of local churches, because that’s what they will be starting on the mission field. My intention was not to make a doctrinal statement rather give some encouragement for church planters. Hope that makes sense. God bless!

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