By definition, the church is the “body of Christ,” that community of the redeemed of which He is the head: “And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).
The church is nurtured by Christ’s own dynamic life:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25–26).
“Christ will come to claim the church as His bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2), “. . . that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
The church’s birth was confirmed by the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–11), who also provides the power for its self-perpetuation through witness to the world (Acts 1:8).
The Church Is Both Visible and Invisible
• The invisible church is that larger body of believers who, down through the ages, have sincerely trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior: “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). One becomes a member of the invisible church when he or she receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 1:12).
• The visible church is the present-day universal church, composed of local groups of Christians. In it are both the “wheat and tares” (Matthew 13:25–30)—the truly redeemed, and many who are not. When a person experiences the new birth, he or she becomes a member of the invisible church. He or she should seek to identify immediately with a local church which honors the Lord and His Word, in order to take an active part in worship, fellowship, evangelism, Bible study, and prayer. This is a responsibility which the Bible teaches: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV).
(Sadly, there have been many churches down through the centuries that have denied “the faith which was once for all delivered” [Jude 3], and which therefore do very little to nurture the believers committed to their care.)
1. Commend the inquirer for his or her interest in the church. We are being obedient to God when we identify with the local church. In church we are seeking the opportunity to worship, fellowship, evangelize, study the Bible, pray, and participate in the Lord’s Supper.
2. Becoming a member of a local church does not save us. We identify with a church because we are saved and desire to be obedient. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). Ask the inquirer if he or she has received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Share Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD.
3. After trusting Christ, the inquirer should seek to identify immediately with a local church. Suggest that he or she pray for God’s guidance in finding the right church, one which exalts Christ, preaches and teaches the Bible, and evangelizes the lost.
4. Once the person becomes a member of a church, faithful attendance is very important.
5. He or she should seek a place of service in the church. Opportunities are always available if we offer ourselves in service to God.
6. Encourage financial support of the church. Other Christian causes and ministries are worthy of our giving but in order to function and grow, the local church should receive a substantial part of its members’ tithes and offerings.
The book of Acts presents the birth of the church, its early growth, and the people involved.
The Epistles were directed to the church and provide guidelines for faith and practice.
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996