The “apparent church”
In the Western world therefore we see, by and large, a spineless, and biblically illiterate church. It is too weak to be a witness to our world and too unimpressive to be able to teach or preach effectively. One could call it the ‘apparent church’. It appears to outsiders and non-believers to be the church, but very many of the people in it have no true faith or accurate understanding of what the Bible teaches. This ignorance and error applies even to church leaders. Thus, what they do not know, they cannot teach. But any wrong ideas they have will be passed on to others.
Tragically, countless people have rejected real Christianity solely on the basis that they are not impressed by what they have seen and experienced within what I call the "apparent church." They mistakenly assume, when they reject all of this, that they are rejecting the real church.
They have seen a lot of hypocrisy, falseness, confusion, compromise and shallowness in the apparent church and have been appalled by it. On that basis, they have then rejected real Christianity. It is almost as if they have been "vaccinated" against real Christianity. They have had a small dose of something which is not the real thing, but which sufficiently resembles it to put them off Christianity for life. It prevents many from ever looking into it any further, so they never find the real thing.
Therefore, people can reject real Christianity solely because of what they imagine it is, based on what they have seen in the apparent church, without ever finding the real church or the real gospel. However, if Christianity really was what they wrongly imagine it to be, then I would reject it myself, as would any sensible person.
Who would want to be part of a church which is about self-righteousness, religious smugness, empty tradition and superstition? Who would want a church which is spectator-orientated, with a large group of people depending on one man to do everything for them, rather than actively participating, serving, forming relationships, studying and learning for themselves?
Unbelievers can see that the apparent church is largely an irrelevance. It has little to offer in their lives or to society. Non-Christians are astute and can see that lukewarm Christianity is empty and false. But, they do not realise that elsewhere the real thing does exist, because most have never come across it. The media certainly doesn’t report it.
What I experienced growing up in Roman Catholicism, and what many other people experience, even in the Protestant and nonconformist denominations, is a lifeless, superficial church. It does not bring them to a place of salvation. That was my position for 19 years. Then I discovered that Jesus is offering us eternal life, forgiveness of our sins and a complete set of blessings that we call ‘salvation’. Yet, I had entirely missed it in all my years in institutionalised religion.