The church is distinctive by its design and very nature. In order to live up to its identity, the church must maintain its distinctiveness.
Jesus told Peter, "I will build My church" (Matthew 16:18). There was distinctiveness in that statement. Jesus declared that He would do the building and that it would be His church. If anyone else builds (establishes) a church, it is not the Lord's church. The Lord established His church on the first Pentecost following His death, burial, and resurrection almost two thousand years ago. Any church established since that day cannot be His church.
The Lord Himself, by God's distinctive design, is the only head of His church (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). Any church that has any other head, including some governing board or body, cannot be the true church of the Lord.
The church is distinct in what it stands for. It is described as being "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Therefore it must stand on, and uphold, the truth of God's word (John 17:17). Truth is narrow; that's what distinguishes it as truth. Jesus emphasized that narrowness of truth and the importance of living one's life in the truth (Matthew 7:13-14).
The church should be distinct from every other philosophy in that it does stand on the truth of God's word. Truth stands out from error, exposes error to be error. It matters what the church believes and teaches and practices (Ephesians 4:4-6). It is the truth that offers mankind freedom from the guilt of sin (John 8:32). Only by living according to the truth of God's word can a person be a true disciple of Christ (John 8:31). A person who does not live "in the doctrine of Christ does not have God" (2 John 9).
The church is distinct in how it worships. Worship is directed toward God and is primarily intended to express adoratioin to Him. The true church will submit itself to worship God in the ways God has instructed in His word that He wants to be worshiped. The scriptures teach that we are to worship through prayer (1 Timothy 2:8), singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16 - instrumental music is nowhere authorized as part of New Testament worship), giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), partaking of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20-29), and preaching/teaching from God's word (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
The church cannot allow itself to become just another denomination within the realm of denominationalism. To do so would indicate that it has lost its distinctiveness. The church is supposed to stand out as a shining light on the hillside, lighting the way for all the world to see the path to eternal salvation (Matthew 5:14-16). We must maintain, judiciously guard, our distinctiveness as the Lord's church...
Gary L. Hutchens