So I'm getting these e-mails and these off-line questions about, "well, can't I leave my church?" And if you want a short answer, my answer to you is, "no, you cannot leave your local church."
But if you only want short answers, you're not thinking about your question or its implications very clearly. See: the question, "Can I leave my church" is a subordinate question to the matter of what a church is. And a common baptist (and note: you kooky non-denoms are really baptists without a convention, so get yourself together) misunderstanding of things is that somehow the local church is just some kind of expedient thing, or pragmatic thing, or maybe it's like other bad-but-redemptive things like the cross of Christ or Joseph's being sold into slavery by his brothers -- something we have to suffer through and that suffering brings glory to God.
Listen: that's the worst kind of low church view -- because it's really a "no church" view. Yes: the "invisible church" -- all the saints from all time which we will not be able to see until, really, after the resurrection -- doesn't rely on some earthly corporation. Yes: the saved are who they are, and they don't need someone from Memphis or St. Louis or Durham or Rome to sign off on their credentials or put a check mark next to their name in the Lamb's book of life.
But that's not the question when you're asking, "Can I leave my church?" The question which comes before the question is "It there a divine ordinance which establishes the church on Earth?" That is: Does God have a plan which is being worked out in time and space which includes the rightly-defined gathering-together of those who are reached by the Gospel?
If your answer is, "um, what?" or "THAT'S ROMANISM!", or "geez, I dunno ...", then here's what I want you to do: first, I want you to define -- from Scripture -- what the church is. I'd be willing to stipulate to the "invisible" church, because that's not what we're dealing with -- you're not asking to leave the invisible church, are you? You're asking, "how to I get away from these lousy babdiss soft-soakers of the Gospel?"
So define the visible church from Scripture, including the purpose of the visible church according the Scripture, and then we can start moving forward.
I'll post my answer to that question tomorrow; I will return to the Zens paper later this week. They are related, and you can consider this a pre-emptive excursus on the nature of the church in order to understand the nature of church leadership and church submission.
Carry on. The more-aggressive among you might want to share your answers with the class. Please do so in the Meta.