Mark Dever challenges the notion that we can love “the universal church” without committing to an actual church:
Please do not be deceived by a vague conception of the universal church to which you belong if you’re not pursuing that life together with an actual church.
…We demonstrate to the world that we have been changed, not primarily because we memorize Bible verses, pray before meals, tithe a portion of our income, and listen to Christian radio stations, but because we increasingly show a willingness to put up with, to forgive, and even to love a bunch of fellow sinners.
…It’s right there – right in the midst of a group of sinners who have committed to loving one another – that the gospel is displayed. The church gives a visual presentation of the gospel when we forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us, and when we lay down our lives for one another as Christ laid down his life for us.
Together we can display the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way we just can’t by ourselves…
If your goal is to love all Christians, let me suggest working toward it by first committing to a group of real Christians with all their foibles and follies. Commit to them through thick and thin for eighty years. Then come back and we’ll talk about your progress in loving all Christians everywhere. (What Is a Healthy Church?)