Ask Pastor Charlie: On Joining a Church

Today, on Ask Pastor Charlie, we address the issue of joining a church. In this day of consumer churches, online sermons, and endless conferences, church membership seems like a thing of the past. Should a Christian join a church? What are some common objections? Does it even matter? Let’s listen in:


“What’s the point of joining a church? I’m sure some people find it meaningful, but I connect with Jesus better on my own. And I certainly don’t need to join a church in order to be a Christian.” – Parker from Philadelphia, PA

Pastor Charlie: Now, are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? Well, suppose everybody else did the same, suppose all Christians in the world said, “I shall not join the Church.” Why there would be no visible Church, there would be no ordinances! That would be a very bad thing, and yet, one doing it—what is right for one is right for all—why should not all of us do it? Then you believe that if you were to do an act which has a tendency to destroy the visible Church of God, you would be as good a Christian as if you did your best to build up that Church? I do not believe it, sir! Nor do you either.

You have not any such a belief; it is only a trumpery excuse for something else. There is a brick—a very good one. What is the brick made for? To help to build a house with. It is of no use for that brick to tell you that it is just as good a brick while it is kicking about on the ground as it would be in the house. It is a good-for-nothing brick; until it is built into the wall, it is no good. So you rolling-stone Christians, I do not believe that you are answering your purpose; you are living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live, and you are much to blame for the injury you do. [1]

“Jesus came to set his people free. Joining the church would only restrict me. I wouldn’t want that kind of accountability.” – Liz from Chicago, IL

Pastor Charlie: Just what you ought to feel! Ought you not to feel that you are bound to holiness now, and bound to Christ now? Oh! those blessed bonds! If there is anything that could make me feel more bound to holiness than I am, I should like to feel that fetter, for it is only liberty to feel bound to godliness, and uprightness, and carefulness of living.

“I understand what Christ teaches about being a part of His church, but I’m not sure I can live up to that. It all seems too ideal and unrealistic. I’m afraid I would find it even harder to follow Him in the church.” – Tyrone from Houston, TX

Pastor Charlie: You expect to hold on, I suppose, out of the Church—that is to say, you feel safer in disobeying Christ than in obeying him! Strange feeling that! Oh! you had better come and say, “My Master, I know thy saints ought to be united together in church-fellowship, for churches were instituted by thine apostles: and I trust I have grace to carry out the obligation: I have no strength of my own my Master, but my strength lies in resting upon thee: I will follow where thou leadest, and leave the rest to thee.”

“Why would I ever want to join a church? I’d much rather follow Jesus on my own. All the churches I know are a mess and the people are hypocrites.” – Samantha from Omaha, NE

Pastor Charlie: You, then, are perfect, of course! If so, I advise you to go to heaven, and join the Church there, for certainly you are not fit to join it on earth, and would be quite out of place.

I can only say, my brethren, that if the Church of God is not better than I am, I am sorry for it. I felt, when I joined the Church, that I should be getting a deal more good than I should be likely to bring into it, and with all the faults I have seen in living these twenty years or more in the Christian Church, I can say, as an honest man, that the members of the Church are the excellent of the earth, in whom is all my delight, though they are not perfect, but a long way from it. If, out of heaven, there are to be found any who really live near to God, it is the members of the Church of Christ.

“Most churches in my area are looked down on. And it’s no wonder: the music is outdated, the people are weird, the sermons are long, and the coffee is terrible. It’s hard enough being respectable just as a Christian without also having to associate with that.” – Will from Los Angeles, CA

Pastor Charlie: Oh! what a blessed look-down that is! I do think, brethren, there is no honor in the world equal to that of being looked down upon by that which is called “Society” in this country. The most of people are slaves to what they call “respectability.” Respectability! When a man puts on a coat on Sunday that he has paid for, when he worships God by night or by day, whether men see him or not: when he is an honest, straightforward man—I do not care how small his earnings are, he is a respectable man, and he need never bend his neck to the idea of Society or its artificial respectability.

These various kinds of humbug, for they are no other, keep many from joining the Christian Church, because they are afraid of being looked down upon by respectable people in Society… The day will come when the poorest Christian will be exalted above the proudest noble that did not fear God: when God will take out of the hovels and cottages a nobility of an Imperial race, that will put to the blush all the kings and princes of the world. And these he will set above the seraphim, when others will be cast from his presence. I say to any of you, who will not join this Church, because doing so would lower your respectability—neither do I ask you to join it, nor does Christ either: If these be the gods ye worship—Society and respectability—go to your beggarly gods and worship them, but God will require it of your hands in the day of account.

There is nothing better than the service of Christ. For my own part, to be despised, pointed at, hooted in the streets, called by all manner of ill-names—I would accept it all sooner than all the stars of knighthoods and peerages, if the service of Christ necessitated it, for this is the true honor of the Christian when he truly serves his Master. The day is coming when the Lord will divide between those that love him and those that love him not, and every day is getting ready for that last division.

There you have it. As always, we are grateful for those who wrote in and we hope that they, along with the rest of our listeners, were challenged and helped. Join us again next time on Ask Pastor Charlie!


[1] All quotes are taken from Charles H. Spurgeon, “Joining the Church,” C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons Preached and Revised by C. H. Spurgeon, vol. 60 (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1970-2006), 289-300.

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