John MacArthur commenting on 1 Thess. 5:12 said this about the local church:
And so, this section will be instruction for life in the church, very practical, very basic, very straight forward, very direct. And the church needs a good healthy dose of this kind of instruction, believe me. If there's anything that grieves my heart across America, it is the fact that we have so many unhealthy churches, so many churches that do not know the power of God, the presence of God, the peace of God, the joy of God, that do not experience all of the blessings of God that He pours out to those who are walking according to His will and moving ahead toward being like Jesus Christ. We have many many unhealthy churches. It's a continual grief to me to talk to pastors who are so deeply burdened because they are in a church that demonstrates a lack of spiritual commitment. It also is a grief to me to hear from people who are in churches where their leadership is not committed to spiritual growth and development. This country is filled with busy churches and some big churches but many unhealthy churches. One rather cynical writer looking at the church said that the church reminded him of Noah's ark. Of what he said, "If it weren't for the storm outside, you couldn't stand the stench inside." That's a cynical view of the church. That's a jaded view of the church.
And it's far from the reality of what the church should be and what the true church is. The church is the most blessed institution on the earth, the only one built by the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one He said He promised to bless and the gates of hell would never be able to hold it in. Now we're not saying the church doesn't have difficulty, it does. The reason the church has difficulty is because the church has people and we're all fallen and we're all sinful and we're all imperfect and we have weaknesses and we face difficulties. Fallen and sinful people make up the church, weak people make up the church. And in many ways we have to say the church is a hospital. It's not a place for perfect people. It's not a place for people who imagine they're perfect. It's a place for people who admit they're not and they want help. And it isn't until the church admits that that it begins to move in the right direction. Certainly the church has faults.
You always hear people say, "Well I don't want to join the church there's too many hypocrites." To which the proper response is, "Well come on in, we've got room for more." Sure we have faults. The admission of that, the recognition of that is the basic stance from which you begin to grow, from which you begin to move in the right direction. We have to start with the confession of our failures and our weaknesses. So we acknowledge the church is going to have trouble. I've never seen a church that didn't. That's because people have problems and leaders have problems, relationships therefore are stretched and strained and made difficult.
Then you can add to that the reality that Satan works hard against the church and so do his supernatural agents and so do his human agents. But still, the true church is far better than any other organization, association or institution on the face of the earth because it moves toward being like Jesus Christ, because it represents Him in the world, because its life is energized by the Holy Spirit, because it lives under the instruction of the Word of God, because it applies spiritual power mutually through fellowship and service among its members. It therefore is the greatest association, organization, institution in the face of the earth. But it is admittedly people in process. We're not where we ought to be but we're not where we were. We're moving in that direction.