Study 4 THE KIND OF CHURCH TO JOIN
(Scripture Portions: Acts 2: 41-47; Hebrews 10: 19-25)
There are very many believers who, for one reason or another, do not link up with a church, and they can lose out spiritually. Some have good reasons for not joining a church; others may have quite feeble excuses. Some Christians experience genuine difficulty in finding a God-honouring ministry – a Bible church where they could feel at home. Can a believer join a liberal or a worldly church (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)? There are Christians who, due to the nature of their work, find it difficult to worship regularly. But it is still wise to join a church and to have a spiritual home. Again, some Christians feel they are not good enough to join a church. But the church is meant for sinners – saved sinners – and if belonging was only given to those who felt good enough, no one would join! Then there are those who are looking for the perfect church! They haven’t yet found anywhere good enough for them. It’s a form of spiritual pride. There are others who once belonged to a church, but through some unfortunate experience they left, whilst a great many do not want to be ‘involved’ or serve in the local church.
It is important to make clear the difference between the Church and a church. The Church is that great invisible, universal living organism consisting of every born again person (Ephesians 1:22-23); a church is the visible, local assembly of people who call themselves Christians (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 16:19; Galatians 1:2; Colossians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; Revelation 1:11). Every believer belongs to the Church, even if he does not belong to a church, and Acts 2:47 refers to the close bond of believers with whom we should link up. Here are some suggestions as to the kind of church to join.
1. A church where there is found a true spirit of Christian worship and fellowship and a sphere for Christian service.
These are our three great needs: worship – look up John 4:23-24; fellowship – look up Malachi 3:16 and Hebrews 10:25; and service – look up 1 Thessalonians 1:9. Seek out an assembly of God’s people where you feel “at home” in worshipping the Lord, in fellowship with His people and in service for Him.
2. A church where membership is not made too easy.
Not, of course, that there should ever be an exclusive spirit in a church. On the other hand, you will wish to join a church where the minister and the members require to know that you are really born again (John 3:5), and are seeking by the grace of God to live a consistent Christian life (Ephesians 5:15). God is glorified when a church sets a high standard for membership.
3. A church which makes much of the Bible and stands wholeheartedly for “the whole will of God.”
We are living in days of apostasy (2 Timothy 3:1; Jude 4) – days when there is a great departure from the truth. The true Christian, therefore, will desire to join a church which stands for the full inspiration and authority of the whole Bible (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21), and which honours the Person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ: His full deity (John 20:28), His perfect humanity (1 Timothy 2:5), His virgin birth (Matthew 1:18), the infallibility of his teaching (John 5: 22-23), the reality of His miracles (John 20: 30-31), the substitutionary nature of His death (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21), His bodily resurrection (John 20:27), His glorious ascension (Luke 24:50-51), His present exaltation (Acts 5:31) and His second advent (Acts 1:9-11). Avoid being a heresy hunter; but whatever you do, do not join any church which does not stand for and proclaim the whole will of God (Acts 20:27).
4. A church which is separate from all secular, secondary and worldly methods and movements and organisations which are disloyal to the Bible.
It is not the business of a church to run a big social programme in which place is given, time is spent and money is expended on worldly entertainments. None of these come within the scope of the work of the church. Read the Book of Acts and see for yourself. The programme of the church must be in every respect honouring to the Holy Spirit – look up Acts 15:28.
5. A church which emphasises the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the vital power of prayer.
Acts 9:31 gives us a picture of a model church, and wherever a church emphasises the need for prayer, you can be certain that that church is out to honour the Holy Spirit. That is the kind of church to join – the prayer-meeting church! – look up and compare Acts 1:13-14; 3:1; 4:23-31 and 12:5.
6. A church which is not only evangelical but evangelistic.
That is, a church which is not only sound, (because you can be sound yet sound asleep), but sound in belief and at the same time reaching out in its ministry to those who are lost. We must not only hold “firmly to” the faithful Word (Titus 1:9), but we must hold “out” the Word of life (Philippians 2:16). Some churches are evangelically sound, but they are evangelistically dead.
7. A church which is Christ-centred and not denominationally-centred or ecumenically-associated.
To join a church will mean linking up with one denomination or another, or one assembly or another; but remember, it is the local assembly of God’s people with whom you are linking up, and in that assembly there must never be an over-emphasis on denominationalism, which only leads to the “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” spirit (1 Corinthians 3:4-7), which is carnal, sectarian and sad in the extreme. On the matter of ecumenism, true believers have this already; it does not need to be organised or “joined” – look up Galatians 3:27-28; but there is an organised ecumenism which must at all costs be avoided and denounced – look up 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 and Jude 3.
When you come to think of it, the kind of church which we have outlined above is only a New Testament church after all!