“Churchian” is an insult that gets thrown around quite a bit in certain corners of the internet. It implies someone is not a “Christian” i.e. a follower of Christ, but a poor parody of one, a mere follower of the church. It is parallel to the slur of “cuckservative”, a conservative who has unconsciously internalized leftest ideology, whose loyalties are those of beltway talking heads, not of true Americans. The churchian mindlessly follows the church, and in doing so has internalized a lot of cultural baggage that is not specifically Christian.
I suppose there is a grain of truth in it. It is easy to get frustrated with clergy, professional Christians, and sundry religious hobbyists, most of whom are no better or smarter than us pew-sitters, and sometimes worse. It may be that a local church or some denomination or another is less than faithful to Christ.
But in the mind of people who throw around the term churchian, what is a true Christian? Apparently someone who individually follows Jesus and figures out the truth on his own by googling Bible verses.
Jesus, however, did not establish an abstract set of doctrines for us to puzzle out from books – books which he didn’t write – 20 centuries after his death, but a society. The artifact he left behind is the church. It is an institution, a network, a culture, a tribe; a concrete human, sociological, historical thing with all the limits and scandal that implies. People are drawn together by God into the church which unties them not only with God, but also to one another. God is attempting to restore primordial human unity through the church.
It is not only (or primarily) a physical reality but a spiritual one. The one body of Christ shares a soul. We are not expected to see or understand that fact, just believe it and act like it.
That does not mean the church is perfect, or not in need of reform. It does not mean that there are not occasional Judases in our midst, Jesus warns us about them. It does mean you cannot be a Christian without the church. To be Christian is to be churchian.
The way the anti-churchians speak of the church is similar to the way some atheists talk about God: all reductionism and distortion; so busy looking down their nose they can’t see the concepts straight on. There is a big overlap between the style of the biblical fundamentalist and that of the evangelical atheist. My prediction: most people who throw around the term “churchian” will end up atheists.