Vol.II No.II Pg.5
March 1965

Should You "Join The Church"

Robert F. Turner

The word "join" means "to associate oneself with, become connected or unite with" and the use of this word with reference to "the church" is not a "mortal sin" as some seem to imply. In previous generations, when there was a more constant "hot" war with denominationalism, gospel preachers made a big point of criticizing the expression "join the church"---and apparently did a fine job of "selling" the brethren on this point. We would have less trouble today if they had done as good a job teaching brethren the work and organization of the church.

However, their condemnation of this terminology has a valid basis. The denominational world considers the church a sort of "adjunct" to the saved, or Christianity. One becomes a Christian---then does, or does not "join the church." To combat this erroneous conception of "church" gospel preachers pointed out that the church is the "body" of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23) made up of all saints who function in Christ (Eph. 4:11-16) hence, one can not be a Christian apart from the church. In the saving process, we are "added" to the church. (Am -2:47)

Your children are "born" into your family---are members of the family by reason of the birth. They are not born, then sometime later "join" your family. In exactly the same way God's children become members of His family, the church (1 Tim. 3:15;Eph. 2:19) We are "born anew" (1 Pet. 1:23; 2:2) and become members of the Lord's church by this process. (See Acts 2:37-41) Denominationalism has a human origin, but God's church is divine. Now all of this has been said with reference to the church as those people in covenant relation with God---saints "assembled" in a figurative sense only. Becoming a Christian makes one a part of "all Christians"---the universal church---without further ado. "Membership" in this group is possible when no relation with other members is under consideration. (Note Ethiopian nobleman, Acts 8:26-39)

But the Lord has made provisions for His followers to work in teams---function collectively for worship, self-edification, authorized benevolence, and preaching the gospel. Here (in a local church) men agree to join forces---accept a special relation with one another---in order to carry out the Lord's will. Saints so collected are called a "church" (1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 4:15) and one already a Christian, and a member of the church in its universal sense, may "join" other brethren in this local fellowship.

Notice he "joins" other saints. In Acts 9:26 we read that Saul (Paul) "assayed to join himself to the disciples;" and later succeeded in this. The church---even the local church---is not an entity apart from her members, but consists of saints in a certain relationship with one another. Every Christian that can possibly do so is expected to "join" with other Christians in this relationship. (See Heb. 10:25)

Perhaps there is enough tolerance in language to allow us to speak of "joining" a local church; but be sure you know what you are talking about.