Which Church Shall I Join?
They say that there is a time in the life of each man when he feels that he should become a member of some religious organization. I suppose that the time has come for me. I have lately had a feeling that my life isn't complete without some spiritual connection with my fellowmen. I have decided to join a church. After looking around, however, I have found that this isn't as simple as it might first appear. I have always been vaguely aware that there are many churches in my city, and even that there are three places of worship in my immediate neighborhood, but the knowledge that there are differences in all these groups never bothered me before. I thought that was something that didn't concern me. But now that I have decided to join a church I find that these dissimilarities concern me very much. There are so many churches and so many differences between what they teach and the way that they do things that I am at a loss to know which one I should cast my lot with. And, to make matters more complicated, I talked to several ministers of the different churches about my problem, and they all assured me that it really didn't make any difference which of the churches I finally decided to join. All of them, they said, are just "branches" of the true church that you read about in the Bible. I could tell from the way that they talked, though, that they really didn't mean what they said. Deep down, each one was convinced that his group was better than the others. Now, I don't know a lot about what the Bible teaches, but I do know that one of the writers was very definite in stating that there is one body. In the same book, — I think it's Ephesians, I remember his saying that the body is the church. Now, maybe I'm dense, but if the body of Christ is his church, and there is just one body, how can these preachers be honest in telling me that all the different churches are right, and that I can please the Lord by belonging to any one of them? I have wondered about this for a long time, but haven't said much about it. Consequently, though, I have decided not to join any of the churches in my neighborhood. It seems to me that they have but little in common with the one that I have always read about in the New Testament, anyway.
As if I weren't already confused enough, I heard a sermon on the radio the other day that was unlike anything I have ever heard. The preacher said that he believed the Bible teaches one church just like I do. He also said that we can be members of that church today like folks were back in Bible days. I didn't quite see how this could be true until he explained it by saying that God added all saved people to His church after it was started. I believe that he quoted some scripture in the second chapter of Acts to prove his point. He said furthermore that if men today will do the same things that men did then to be saved, God will add them to the same church that He did then. Now, that seems reasonable to me. I was very interested in the next thing that he said. He seemed quite sure that the church that was built by Jesus is so minutely described in the New Testament that we can know whether there is a church in the world today that is that church, and if so, which one it is. He said that Christ's church can be identified from its description in the Bible just like the police can identify a fugitive from the description they have of him. That seems logical, and I intend to check up on some of the things he said about the description of the church. He sounded absolutely confident about describing the church, and backed up everything he said with scripture quotations. Among other things, he said that the name of the church is made clear in the Bible, and that it was called "the church of God," "the body," "the church," and that several local groups of church members were called "the churches of Christ." One thing that impressed me about the name of the church was that a church must be known by these Bible names, and that any other name that a church is known by is wrong because it isn't found in the divine pattern for the church. He also had quite a bit to say about the worship of the early church and the organization that characterized it. He said that the church in the Bible observed the Lord's Supper every week, and that when they sang in worship they never used mechanical instruments to accompany their songs. Now, I'll admit that I didn't agree with these things at first, but after looking up the scriptures that he gave to prove what he said I'll have to admit that he was right. As to the way that the church was organized by the apostles, this preacher said that it had no societies and conferences like most of the churches have now. He believed that every local church today has to be separate from all the others because that's the way that it was back there.
I guess that I should have disregarded all the things I heard on that radio program the other day, but somehow I just couldn't. I kept hearing over and over again the question that has been troubling me for so long. "Which church should I join?" I know that I should be a member of some church, and that the only sensible choice is to join the right one. I have decided since I heard that radio sermon that if I can find a church in town that fits the description of the church in the Bible I'll join it. If there is such a church, surely it must be the Lord's. One thing bothers me, though. That preacher closed his sermon by stating that all men must be members of the true church to enjoy the blessings of God, but that men can't join this church. Now, that seemed like a contradiction to me until he said that since the true church belongs to God, it is only right that God should be the one to do the adding to it. He said that the Bible teaches a way for men to be saved — (I believe he said men must believe in Christ, repent of their sins, and be baptized for the remission of sins), and that when men do these things and are saved from sin God himself will add the saved to His church. He explained it all by saying that the church is called God's family in the Bible, and that it is as impossible for men to join God's family as for children to join our physical families. I suppose that makes sense, doesn't it? Anyhow, I think I'll investigate the church that supported that preacher on the radio — "the church of Christ," I believe the announcer called it. The preacher said that it is the one that can be identified with the church in the Bible. If so, I surely want to belong to it. Maybe all my searching for a church to join has blinded me to the true church Jesus started and to the way that he makes people members of it. It's worth a try, anyway!