Some hold that “the one true church” began in Acts 2 and continues to this very day, alongside many false churches. (Let them identify which one they think is the real one, and then we can discuss it.) Meanwhile, others prefer to think of the whole of all the church varieties constituting a massive church, despite the differences in their thinking and practices.
These two views, however, don’t work together. They cannot both be right—and I suspect that they are both wrong.
Meanwhile, there are those who prefer to take an evolutionary view of “the church”, in which it keeps upgrading itself in various ways throughout the centuries. So where Acts 2 began what we might call Version 1.0, they would now have us at some supposedly-advanced iteration such as 3.9 or 1789.2. It’s just a concept, of course, so the actual number wouldn’t matter all that much. Regardless, that’s their concept. So when you hold them to account as to why their church is lacking some certain feature of the original ekklesia of Jesus, they think nothing of it, for they hold no expectation that the church now and the church then ought to match—at least not in whatever particular regard is in view.
This way of thinking, of course, makes it exceedingly easy to cover up the differences, for in it, the differences are taken as accomplishments predetermined by God to be accomplished over time. So if you ask them about their “teen ministry”, for example, and how it seems on its face to be contrary to Paul’s teachings on unity in 1 Corinthians 12, don’t expect them to be alarmed at that observation, for they’ll see it as a needful and righteous evolution beyond where Paul and the church were at that primitive hour in its history. Never mind that the apostles themselves didn’t seem to exhibit any such progressive view during their own tenures; “that was then, and this is now,” seems to be the newthink.
Well, OK, let’s run with that. Suppose that it were to keep progressing such that God eventually does away with this, that, and the other thing, such that the only thing that he eventually chooses to focus on would be the personal righteousness of the individual believer. Suppose that that were held as non-negotiable, but that all the normal trappings of “church” were eventually dispensed with. Would that evolutionary outcome be acceptable? Or is it a predetermined conclusion that there simply must be a corporation and a building and a staff and a bank account and sermons and so forth? In other words, is this really a pursuit of what God wants, or are the wants of the congregants also important as things evolve? Sure, you can call it progress all you like, but if it’s not pleasing God, is it really progress?
Now, lest I be misunderstood, I think that this extreme degree of change (in which all that counts is how the believer conducts himself) is indeed what God seems to have had in mind, and that he accomplished this immediately at 70AD, skipping all the denominational business altogether. And since it was immediate, it wasn’t evolutionary at all, and did not depend on people to figure it out. I think that he immediately stopped supporting the regular business of the ekklesia on Planet Earth, having moved the whole crowd up to the Heavenly Jerusalem, that Holy City. And anyone on Planet Earth since who wants to go there can signify such by living in godly and righteous fashion, honoring God with his thoughts, words, and deeds.
If I’m right about this (and obviously, I think I am), that puts us currently in Version 0.0 of church–regardless of whatever way the various believers see it. Those who think they are members of Version 1.0 (Catholics are probably a good example of this, though not the only), simply deceive themselves into thinking that the obvious changes and evolutions are indeed the original practices and teachings. They are cheating, for the differences are self-evident. And those whose view is that they are in Version 437.2 of “the church” can easily deal with whatever fault may be found in it all by appealing to the soon-to-be-released Version 437.3, which they are certain that God is working hard to bring about in good time.
As I have said before, however, very few indeed seem interested in adopting a reality-based view of the true state of things.