Over the past decade, we have witnessed a global resurgence of religion. Immediately following the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, church attendance soared. But why all the furor about church attendance? Does it make any difference whether you attend a church? Many say, “I don’t attend church, and I’m as good a Christian as anyone else.” Are you a church-goer? Should you be?
Jesus promised, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). But what is a church? The word church comes from the Greek ecclesia, which is derived from a root meaning “to call out.” The Church Jesus said He would build is a group of “called-out ones.”
Today we have become confused. Instead of the one Church, the one group of called-out ones who belong to Jesus Christ, we see hundreds of differing groups, with different beliefs, different customs, different methods of church government, different goals, different places of worship, different doctrines—myriads of insurmountable differences. Why?
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith [or doctrine], one baptism, One God and Father of all …” (Eph. 4:4-6). But people do not know where to look for this one Church. Nearly every great error in thinking stems from false assumption. And because most assume many things about what the Church should be, they are led into a labyrinth of false claims, obscure history and error.
Let’s not assume! Jesus Christ said nobody could come to Him unless God the Father called him first (John 6:44). This coincides with the use of the word ecclesia for the Church—a group of called-out ones.
Christ never prophesied His Church would become a large, impressive, politically powerful church ruling over the nations in this age.
Far from becoming more respected in the community, far from having their business opportunities enhanced, gaining more friends or being raised in social status, Jesus promised those in His true Church would be hated, persecuted and perhaps even killed because of it (John 15:18-19; 16:2).
It is no wonder then, that Christ calls His true Church a little flock! It is a little Church, a small group of sincere, converted called-out ones who have forsaken this world in repentance. It is a small, rejected, despised body of believers who are doing the work of God.
Christ had a work to accomplish on Earth (John 9:4). Even though some may not have believed Christ, He warned them to look to the works being accomplished for the proof they sought (John 10:37-38). The same is true in determining where God’s Church is today.
Believe it or not, you cannot “join” the Church of God! No one ever has—no one ever will! God must put you into it!
Upon hearing the true message about the Kingdom of God, many people wrestle with the question of what to do. The same was true when the Jews at Jerusalem heard Peter’s inspired sermon on the Day of Pentecost; they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
Well then, why didn’t Peter seize the opportunity? Why didn’t he tell them, “Go join a church”? Instead, he said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]” (v. 38). God will give that Spirit only to those who are willing to obey Him (Acts 5:32). When you receive God’s Spirit, you are automatically put into the body of Christ, which is the Church of God—the group of called-out ones!
You can enter God’s true Church by repenting of your disobedience to God’s law, by calling on God’s true servants to baptize you, and by claiming God’s promise of the gift of His Holy Spirit. That is the only way!
Church attendance by itself does not mean Church membership in God’s sight. It is not an end in itself and will not “save” you! It is—where God has made it possible—a means to salvation. God does instruct His true servants not to forsake the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10:25). But God forbids you ever to join in with the worship of counterfeit church bodies—no matter how close to the truth they seem (Eph. 5:11). Only the genuine worship of God in His Church is acceptable to Him.
God’s Church has “little strength” (Rev. 3:8). It is scattered. It is not noticed by the world. It is a “little flock.” Some have opportunities to meet, but many are unable to attend local congregations. They are the “strangers and pilgrims” on this Earth—looking for a better world to come.
But that Church has open doors set before it—of television, radio, the printing press and the Internet—to carry God’s warning and the gospel of the soon-coming Kingdom of God to the whole world as a last witness.
Should you join a church? No! Because any church you can “join” is not the Church of God!
Prove to yourself where God’s Church is. Where the work of that Church is being done—where the ministers of God are faithfully crying aloud and showing people their sins—and don’t settle for a counterfeit! Respond to God’s calling. Then, follow Peter’s admonition: Repent, and be baptized in Christ’s name—into Christ’s one and only body.