A modern parable about searching for The Ideal Church
One day a certain married couple went shopping for their first house. They wanted to be wise with their money, so they spent a lot of time walking through house after house, looking through newspapers for advertisements, and budgeting the amount they wanted to spend. They wanted The Ideal House—one that would fit their needs and lifestyle perfectly.
They saw many types of houses on the market. Some were advertised by the name of the architect, while others were advertised by architectural style. Some people had even gone to the effort of attempting to list all houses designed by “good” architects, a particularly daunting task.
The system of picking the right house seemed convenient at first, but it was, nevertheless, a massive amount of information for any two people to digest. Volume after volume had been written about the virtues of one style over another. Benefits were considered, drawbacks discussed, individual architects praised, and others criticized.
The couple spent much of their earnings and untold hours reading books at night, because they were determined to find The Ideal House. One particularly exasperating evening at a library, the man’s wife stumbled onto a book entitled Plans For The Ideal house. They immediately discussed the book with the librarian, asking why they had never seen this book before.
What the librarian said shocked them. She told them that the book was written by The Ideal Architect, and that almost all the house styles that they saw in books, advertisements, and style guides were built by architects claiming to follow this very same book, Plans For The Ideal house. They wondered how it could be that so many architects claiming to follow the directions of The Ideal Architect for The Ideal House (that would be best suited to The Ideal Way of Life) could come up with so many different designs. Why would people bother with all these other books if they could get better information directly from The Ideal Architect? Besides, the vast array of conflicting designs could not all be ideal. There could be only one ideal.
Of course, they checked this book out of the library and diligently studied it. They found The Design for The Ideal House to be quite simple. Among other things, it called for its foundation to be built on Rock. The Ideal Architect had made it quite clear that any other foundation would not be sufficient to support The Ideal House. They remembered some of the other books simply specifying that any house of any design needs only to be built on Rock to be sufficient. Others went to great length to clarify exactly how their house should look, how it should be built, and demanding strict adherence to their design specification. Some even left out the Rock Foundation altogether.
As they studied the pages of Plans For The Ideal House, they eventually came to understand that while houses built according to The Ideal Architect’s Design might look slightly different, they should all appear to have been created by the same designer. They could see that The Ideal Design was created with everyone of every background in mind, so that it would be ideally suited to every occupant.
Likewise with the church. The Master Architect of the Christian faith designed the church in such a way that the structure of it does not need adaptation to modern or changing times. Modern technologies and varying societies will affect some of the details of how the church operates on a day-to-day basis; but the essence of the institution remains the same. God was sufficiently capable of giving us an intelligible Master Plan that we can refer to directly. We should not need to appeal to a person’s interpretation of the Master Plan (e.g. a creed) for the structure of the church. We stand or fall based on our obedience to our only creed, the New Testament.