What you believe about the church should come from the Bible, because what Scripture says about the church is true. God's ministers should deal in truth. The truth should be acceptable especially to preachers, but really to everyone who calls Himself a Christian. One could argue that the church is second in importance in the New Testament to Jesus Himself, because the church is in fact the body of Christ. Without Christ visibly or physically here, we have His church as the manifestation of Him on earth. All the truth of the New Testament is obeyed in the context of the church.
We don't want to get Jesus wrong. We don't want to get the church wrong. We can say that Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6) and that the church is the container for truth. Truth is protected and propagated by the church. If you get the church wrong, the truth is also at stake.
I followed a couple of different examinations of the church recently online. The first one was a discussion of a Kentucky billboard, one mounted by a Church of Christ member, that attacked the idea of a denomination, the Baptists, that was started by John the Baptist. Get it? The Church of Christ, of course, because it's in the name, you know, was the one started by Christ, because it has that name, "of Christ," and then there are the Baptists, who are tied to, you know, John the Baptist, and not Christ. Now that shows ignorance of why we use the name Baptist, so it argues a strawman. "Baptist" is simply a shortened version of "Anabaptist," which is not named after John the Baptist.
The short discussion mocked the idea that the church started with John the Baptist. Most said they had never heard of it. Some speculated that it must be the "landmarkers" or "Baptist briders." The last thing said answered where someone got this belief: "no one in their right mind, I would say. Certainly, no one who rightly divides the Word." The critics are going to find themselves in trouble when they actually do depend on scripture and not on tradition on this one.
I looked at the discussion with great curiosity, since I believe the Bible teaches that the church did start with John the Baptist. There is no verse that says, "The church started at this moment." I don't think it's hard to say that the church started with John the Baptist though. It's not good enough just to ridicule the position, although that's common fare (at the link I provided above), or just resort to the pejorative without proof. Please though, if you are going to talk about the church, know what ekklesia means, how people understood it, how it is used -- the grammar of its usage -- in the 118 uses. Plain reading of scripture does glean a local only understanding of the church. Learn Christ. Learn the church.
The second article and then audio I read and listened to, which was recommended to me by a pastor friend, was by none other than Frank Turk. I read the article and then listened to his session at a conference, while I was starting to lay a hardwood floor in our living room. Turk was asked to teach about parachurch organizations, so he comes from Matthew 16 and he essentially says the church that Jesus builds is local. He in part relies on the meaning of ekklesia, how people would have understood it in that day. I said "essentially" because he is proving it is local, but he says that it is "universal" too. Most of what he said was very good, and it only got confusing when he wanted to allow a "universal church" concept in too.
To begin, we know the church started before Pentecost, which should make easy sense to anyone reading. In Acts 2, the converts at Pentecost were "added to the church." That should make it an easy call. You don't add to something that doesn't already exist. Then Jesus talked about it like it already existed in Matthew 18 when he taught church discipline. Various basic components that make a church to be a church were already existent before Pentecost. Hebrews 1 says that Jesus sang in the church. He didn't sing in the church on Pentecost or afterwards.
What about Jesus' statement, "I will build my church," using the future tense of the verb in Matthew 16. "Build" is oikodomeo, which is translated many other places "edify." Jesus was saying He would "edify" His church or "build up." He wasn't going to build it as in it hasn't already been started, but that He would add to what already existed.
Some of this issue would be solved if we understood the term ekklesia like William Tyndale did. When he went with plain meaning, he translated Matthew 16:18:
And I saye also vnto the that thou arte Peter: and apon this rocke I wyll bylde my congregacion. And the gates of hell shall not prevayle ageynst it.
Tyndale translates ekklesia, "congregation." He never calls it "church." How would it change many people's understanding of Ephesians 5:25 if they read this?
Husbandes love youre wyves even as Christ loved the congregacion and gave him silfe for it
People in Jesus' day understood ekklesia as "assembly" or "congregation."
So how did John the Baptist start the church? John prepared the way of the Lord by gathering an assembly of saved, immersed believers, who were called out of the world for a particular purpose. I like to call it the church in embryonic form. It didn't have everything it would have, but it was already an "assembly." John transferred that group to Jesus' leadership when Jesus came on the scene and was baptized by John.
1 Corinthians 3 calls the church the "temple." The church is the New Testament temple. Israel's temple was rejected as the house of God and the church became God's house. Jesus is God. He inhabited the temple. Jesus baptized the saints on Pentecost with the Holy Spirit, but that does not mean that the church didn't already house the Holy Spirit. In John 20:22, we read:
[Jesus] breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.
The assembly had already received the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended into heaven, His temple was already inhabited by God the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 (and 8, 10, and 19) was a different happening with the baptism of the Spirit. That authenticated the coming of the Holy Spirit for all who believe.
I don't have a problem with those who say Jesus started the church. The idea that John the Baptist started it isn't new. It's the belief of S. E. Anderson in his book, The First Baptist. This was required reading at Maranatha Baptist Bible College when I was a student and it was sold in the book store. In many cases, people don't know about it because they went to a Protestant school with Protestant, essentially Catholic, ecclesiology. The Reformation didn't do much at all to reform ecclesiology. I would gladly debate any universal church proponent on this issue.
In the discussion to which I above referred, the critics partly mocked the position of men who might believe what I advocate above, because they are also KJVO. There is a reason why the local only position and KJVO often go together, especially with Baptists. The local only people believe that God preserved His church based on biblical presuppositions. They don't believe the true church emerged from Roman Catholicism. They also believe God preserved His Word and used the church to do it, again based on faith in Scripture. By the way, many believe the church preserved the original language text, not a translation. Roman Catholicism made a translation the authority with the Latin Vulgate. The critics were correct in their appraisal that the two positions go together, but they wrote as if they were clueless as to why they go together.
Like so many other texts and doctrines, Protestants spiritualized and allegorized. They read into the text something that wasn't there. They were wrong about a lot, including the huge parts of scripture on who things would end, because of their hermeneutic, which hung on to Catholic presuppositions. A local only ecclesiology would return to a literal hermeneutic on the church, which relies on scripture to explain itself.
If you don't know the who and when, then you don't know the what. When you don't know the what, you threaten the truth, because the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. Obedience to the truth is in and through the church, so if you don't know what the church is, you risk losing reward, something the Apostle Paul talked about on a regular basis.