R.A. Torrey: “Church Membership”
While How to Succeed in the Christian Life may sound too much like Your Best Life Now for comfort, it’s really just a short book to help new believers. Torrey’s words are quite basic, but they reinforce for us a truth which is often disregarded in today’s church (and clearly was a problem for them as well).
The true church consists of all true believers, all who are united to Jesus Christ by a living faith in Himself. In its outward organization at the present time, it is divided into numberless local congregations, but in spite of these divisions the true church is one. It has one Lord, Jesus Christ. It has one faith, faith in Him as Saviour, Divine Lord and only King; one baptism, the baptism in the one Spirit into the one body (Ephesians 4: 4-6; 1 Corinthians 12: 13). But each individual Christian needs the fellowship of individual fellow believers. The outward expression of this fellowship is in membership in some organized body of believers. If we hold aloof from all organized churches, hoping thus to have a broader fellowship with all believers belonging to all the churches, we deceive ourselves. We will miss the helpfulness that comes from intimate union with some local congregation. I have known many well-meaning persons who have held aloof from membership in any specific organization, and I have never known a person who has done this, whose own spiritual life has not suffered by it. On the day of Pentecost the three thousand who were converted were at once baptized and were added to the church (Acts 2: 41, 47), and “They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.” Their example is the one to follow. If you have really received Jesus Christ, hunt up as soon as possible some company of others who have received Jesus Christ and unite yourself with them.
As you cannot find a perfect church, find the best church you can. Unite with a church where they believe in the Bible and where they preach the Bible. Avoid the churches where words are spoken open or veiled that have a tendency to undermine your faith in the Bible as a reliable revelation from God Himself, the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. Unite with a church where there is a spirit of prayer, where the prayer-meetings are well kept up. Unite with a church that has a real active interest in the salvation of the lost, where young Christians are looked after and helped, where minister and people have a love for the poor and outcast, a church that regards its mission in this world to be the same as the mission of Christ, “to seek and to save the lost.”
~ From How to Succeed in the Christian Life