In our day, you can find pretty much find any Christian denomination that would fit with whatever it is you choose to believe. Many people say that Christianity has nothing to do with belonging to a group of people. The important thing is belonging to Christ. Here is what the Bible teaches about this:
As you know, the Jesus’ message was not politically correct. He was very specific about who to follow and what to do. For example;
John 4:22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
Look how Jesus says that the way to salvation is through a specific group of people. He doesn’t instruct her to find her own path to God, he tells her that she doesn’t know what she is worshipping.
Next Jesus is pointing to that very group of people (the Jews) and says this:
Matthew 23:2-3 "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.
Here Jesus is pointing to those people inside the religion who are hypocritical yet still need to be obeyed.
Does hypocrisy still go on today? Certainly it does, but is this any excuse to leave God’s channel of salvation (namely the church) not according to Jesus.
What about people who say that the church is fine and good just as long as they don’t get in the way of my relationship with Jesus?
Well the Bible is clear that there is no such thing as "me and Jesus" Christianity. It is always US and Jesus.
To begin in the beginning, notice how we weren’t born the garden of Eden because of what our first parents did. This punishment is very corporate.
Also think of Moses on Mount Sinai interceding for the Israelites who had been worshipping false gods down below, if it wasn’t for his intercession the group of them would have been destroyed.
One more example before we get into the NT. In the book of Joshua there God told the Israelites to destroy certain towns and take none of the spoils of war. But there was one guy Achan who had to take a little after a certain battle. Yet come to the next war and the Israelites loose the battle. Knowing that this whole war machine is run by the grace of God, they realize that the reason they lost was because someone had sinned. Soon Achan is found out and put to death. Notice though that the reason they lost wasn’t poor war strategy. They didn’t loose because of poor discipline in the ranks. They lost because one person was spiritually infected with sin and it effected everyone.
In the New Testament St. Paul says:
1 Corinthians 12:19-29 If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, …. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
Paul says that we each have a part to play and notice again Paul says
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you,"
Do you listener say I have no need for the leaders of the church? You may want to think again.
(Think also about how we do need the saints in Heaven as well)
What about people who say, but there is no warmth at the Catholic Church, when I go down to Bob’s Bible Church everyone knows me and greets me with love.
I would say first that the worship ceremony that we call the Mass isn’t the place to meet people. That is the place that we are called together to worship God. Now if after Mass you want to meet together to get to know people, that would be a great opportunity to do so. But we can’t abandon true worship just because somewhere else has better hospitality. I would say that is something we need to work on in certain parishes but not during Mass.
What about when people say that they left the Mass because of all of the scandals.
I ask them to name some scandals but then I say - hey you think that is bad I know a bishop that got paid to have a priest murdered. At this point they either agree or wonder where you are taking them in the conversation. I say yes, Judas who was a bishop was paid to have Jesus put to death. But this doesn’t mean that what Jesus taught wasn’t true. It just means that he chooses sinful men to communicate it, and the miracle is that for 2000 it has been communicated without change.
Read the Old Testament and see how you might stand up for some of those scandals? Could you imagine if after your priest offered sacrifice at your local church, he later went down the street to offer sacrifice to another god? THAT would be a huge scandal. But this doesn't mean that Judaism was false, or that God had not begun that religion, or that you could go start your own church.