I Want to Join Your Church

I Want to Join Your Church

It is wonderful when a person says, “I want to join your church!” However, there is some discussion needed. Now, we’re not trying to make it hard to join the church—at least, not any harder than Jesus makes it. But one doesn’t simply join the church as flippantly as one joins Costco. These are matters that deserve soberest investigation.

The Universal Church

First, let’s understand what one wants to join, and what it means to join. The church is not a social club or charitable organization. It is not a place or building. It is not one denomination among many; that is, a collection of congregations united by a hierarchy, such as the Presbyterian Church or the Catholic Church.

Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “[God] put all things in subjection under [Jesus’] feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” The church is the body of Christ, and Jesus is its head. It consists of all the individual people who have been called out of the world and into the light of His Son. It is the earthly manifestation of the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13-14) and it is the fulfillment of centuries of prophecy (Daniel 2:44). There is just one universal church, one body (Ephesians 4:4). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Thus, it is Jesus’ church! It’s not really “my church” or “our church.” The only language of possession is Him possessing us. “You are a chosen race … a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). It’s the church “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

Jesus Christ built one church, “My church” (Matthew 16:16-18); and He built it on the sure foundation of His own identity as the Savior. That’s why we call ourselves “the church of Christ.” In effect, we are saying “the church belonging to Christ.” We don’t think in terms of a denomination called “The Church of Christ.” When people ask me what I am, I do not reply “I’m Church o’ Christ” but rather “Christian.” Religious division is troubling (John 17:20-21, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13) and does not reflect the will of God.

So—and this is a really important truth—the concepts “member of the church” and “person who is saved” designate equivalent things! Any saved person is a member of His church. No one is in His church who is not saved. When you say you want to join the church, you’re really saying you want to enter into a covenant relationship with Christ.

Since the church belongs to Jesus, He gets to set the terms of entrance (Matthew 28:18-20)—which, again, are the same as the terms of salvation. If you have never obeyed the gospel message of salvation in Jesus’ blood; that is, if you have never confessed your faith in Him and been baptized into His name for the forgiveness of your sins, then we can’t simply put you on a church roll. If you say to us, “can I join your church?” we will excitedly reply, with thankful praise on our lips, “yes! Enter Jesus’ church by being washed of your sins in the blood of Jesus,” and God Himself will add you to His church (Acts 2:41, 47).

The Local Church  

Now, doesn’t the Bible also speak of churches? Yes (Galatians 1:2, Acts 14:12, Romans 16:16). Christians in a particular area will assemble together in local congregations for mutual edification, work, worship. Saved people who have been baptized into Jesus make up the universal church; then, they assemble together into local churches for worship and work in His kingdom.

If you’ve already been saved and added to Jesus’ church—if you’re a Christian—all you have to do is decide to be a part of this local congregation. It’s like Paul in Acts 9:26-30, who was “trying to associate with the disciples” in Jerusalem. Since each local congregation is overseen by its own group of pastors (1 Peter 5:1-4) you’ll want to meet with them and discuss our mutual work in Christ.

--John Guzzetta