"He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother." - Cyprian (251 A.D.)Read that again. Do you believe that? I would say most Christians today would not agree with that statement. The focus these days is around the walk and growth of the individual believer. The church is almost an afterthought. In People and Place, Michael Horton says it this way:
"In evangelical contexts, the church is often regarded chiefly as a resource for fellowship. For the uniquely individualized personal relationship with Jesus, the church is not only dispensable but perhaps also a hindrance to personal growth...(Horton, p.170)In taking my class at RTS this spring, Ecclesiology and the Sacraments, I have been blown away at how low my view of the church really was. Mainly through reading Calvin's Institutes & the Reformed Confessions (which by the way are both deeply rooted in Scripture), I have come away amazed at how it seems God views the institution of the church.
The beauty of the church is not that it is merely a resource for friendships and our individual growth, but that it is the very place where God promises to meet His people. Instead of being self-absorbed, focused on how to grow as a individual Christians, we ought to embrace the institution that God ordained to proclaim Christ to us through the preaching of the Word and the sacraments, namely the church.
For a further explanation from Michael Horton, check out this video clip where he gives some advice to the Young Reformed of today. At the 4:00 minute mark, he explains more about his views of the church. I think his thoughts will shock many of you.