If you went to 10 different churches and asked them how you could join, they’d probably give you 10 different answers. Hmmm…how could that be? Didn’t Jesus start the church? Why aren’t we using his rules for joining it as indicated in the Bible?
The first thing we need to realize is that the term “church” is used very loosely today. Any group that considers themselves to be Christians are quick to call themselves the Lord’s church. You can read more about choosing a church in my previous article “How To Choose a Church”. It’s important to choose a group that is using the Bible as the rulebook instead of their own religious traditions. Here are some ideas to keep in mind in regards to joining the church that Jesus founded:
1)Jesus Built Only One Church
What? I know this is hard to believe because we often see a church on every corner. But in a spiritual sense, Jesus only has ONE church. In Matthew 16:16-18, the apostle Peter recognized that Jesus was the Christ (or annointed one) and the Son of the Living God, Jesus said that He would build His church on the foundation of this truth (or on this rock). When the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, he urged them to stay unified as one body Ephesians 4:3-6. In fact, he told them that there is only one body and in his letter to the Christians in Colossians, he indicates that the church is the body of Christ. So Christ built his one true church which is made up of one body, the one true church (or assembly). Ephesians 5:23 tells us that Christ is the savior of this body so its important for us to be in His church if we want to have eternal life. In a physical sense, brethren met in local groups such as the church in Ephesus, the church in Rome, the church in Colossae, etc. And today, brethren still meet in local groups in towns all around the world.
Why is this important? Because if there is only one true church, the rules should be the same to join it regardless of where it meets.
2)The Lord (not man) Grants Admittance
I know this might sound strange, but in the Bible, it was the Lord that added people to the church. Only his rules for admittance have to be followed. When the church began on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), Peter preached the first gospel sermon. All who responded to that sermon and became Christians were added to the church. But who added them? You might assume that Peter and the apostles added them. But the Bible actually says in Acts 2:47 that it was the Lord that added all of the ones being saved to the church. And when you think in terms of God’s spiritual Kingdom, you have to realize that a man cannot add you to it. It must be the Lord who adds you. If you want to know how they were saved, you can read my earlier post on “How To Become A Christian“.
3)The Two Meanings of Church
You might notice that I’m using the word “church” in two different senses. In one sense, when we join the church that Christ built, we are joining a spiritual body of all Christians both past and present. But in a practical physical sense, we also use the word church to describe a group of local Christians that meet in a particular town. But don’t worry, the Bible makes this distinction as well. We know that after Paul became a Christian, he attempted to associate with the church that was meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26), but they were afraid of him because he previously persecuted Christians. Did this mean that he wasn’t part of the Lord’s church? No, he had already been baptized in Damascus so he was still a member of the Lord’s spiritual Kingdom. It just meant that he wasn’t yet part of the local body of Christians meeting in Jerusalem.
4)Do I Have To “Join” a Church?
If you have fully obeyed the Gospel and have already been added to the Lord’s church, you might be wondering if you need to “join” a local group of Christians. The Bible seems to indicate that this is very important. Read Hebrews 10:23-25. The writer instructs that we are to promote love and good deeds among one another. We are also not supposed to abandon (or forsake) the meetings of the brethren. Instead, we are supposed to encourage one another. This is done through teaching, preaching, singing, prayer, etc. and made a lot more difficult if we aren’t actually meeting with our brethren in the worship services. I know, I know, we have a lot of cool technology these days to keep in touch with brethren or even listen to sermons from the comfort of our homes. But we must not violate the Bible by ignoring the gathering of brethren for the purpose of worship.
Rembemer, there are many different churches in existence today, but the Lord built only one church. Let’s make sure the church we attend is the Lord’s church that we can read about in the Bible. The Lord’s church must teach and practice only the things that Jesus authorizes. This means that we observe all of the commands and examples found in New Testament Scripture which is the outline for the new covenant (or agreement) through Christ. We must be members of His church if we expect to be saved.