It really bothered me that the idea of “church” was so nebulous. The Church is described as the Bride of Christ, so why would that bride be such an amorphous blob? A bride knows her relationship to her husband, and at least in a good marriage, that relationship is defined. Furthermore, those on the outside can observe what that relationship is. So why would the prototype (the Church) be less definable than the copy (the bride)? I suppose this is why the claim by the Roman Catholic Church to be the Church instituted by Christ is so shocking. This claim gives shape to the blurred lines that those outside of the Church live with.
That quote, by Nikki, is just what I was feeling some years ago while I was in a small-group study using “Experiencing God” and thinking the book used ‘church’ as 1) local congregation and 2) the set of all ‘true’ Christians (and much confusion results from equivocation between these two meanings) whereas instead I resonated with the Lenny Bruce quip that “The Catholic Church is the church we mean when we say The Church.”
A good example, on the Protestant side, of differing concepts of ‘The Church’ is in Lesslie Newbigin’s “The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society” .. if one looks in the index of that book, one finds
Church, the, chap 18, …
Chapter 18: The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gospel.
[detailed critique to follow]