Spurgeon and Owen on Joining a Church

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Joining the Church,” In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1914), 295-298.

Excuses people give for not joining the church…

1. I cannot join the Church; it is so imperfect

“Ah! but,” says another, “I cannot join the Church; it is so imperfect.” 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.

2. But I see so much that is wrong about Christians

“Yes,” says another, “but I see so much that is wrong about Christians.” There is nothing wrong in yourself, I suppose!

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.

Now, I know there are some who say, “Well, I hope I have given myself to the Lord, but I do not intend to give myself to any church, because——”

Now, why not? “Because I can be a Christian without it.”

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..."

John Owen, Gospel Church Government, Chapter 1:

“Who Belongs to a Church?” (pp. 9-14).

In this chapter Dr. Owen maintains that membership in the visible church is restricted to those who, in the charitable judgment of the church elders, are able to make a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ, i.e., those who are disciples of Jesus Christ and have been baptized into the name of the Triune God of Holy Scripture (Matthew 28:18-20) and willingly submit to the authority of Christ and His officers in the church.

Church membership, says Owen, does not belong to non-believers or to the household members (including the children of Christian parents) of a Christian family who are not able to make a credible profession of faith. Such household members are to be given special care by the church, but they are not permitted to join the church until they willingly embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

According to Dr. Owen, church membership is required of all believers. Such persons need to join a Biblically based church—one that preaches the whole counsel of God, faithfully administers the sacraments of water baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and exercises church discipline when necessary. A Christian must not remain in a “corrupt church.”