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Bible Dictionaries

The American Church Dictionary and Cycopedia

Joining the Church

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This is a phrase that has been brought over from the usage and phraseology of the various denominations. Its use among Church people has been productive of the greatest harm. In the first place, it is hardly a correct phrase for a Churchman to use. We may "join" an Odd Fellows' lodge or a debating society, but we do not join a family or household which God's Church is. We are born or adopted into a family, and so we are adopted into God's family; incorporated, grafted into the Body of Christ, His Church, and not simply "join" it as we would a debating society or a political club.

In the next place, harm has been done by the use of this phrase by Church people, because as popularly understood it is in direct contradiction to the belief and practice of the Church. According to this phraseology Holy Baptism counts for nothing, and yet the Bible teaches that it is in Holy Baptism that we are made members of the Church, and that all future blessings are dependent on this spiritual fact. When then, Church people take up this mode of speech and use it in reference to Confirmation as is so often done, they practically ignore the significance of Holy Baptism and the Church's method and appointed order.

The effect of this becomes apparent in the lives of many of the Church's baptized children. Because, in whatever religious teaching they receive, their Baptism is never referred to, and they are never reminded that they are now God's children by adoption and grace because baptized, it comes to pass that, when these same children are asked to be confirmed, they think and act as if they were invited to "join the Church." And as they are more influenced by the speech and methods of the various religious bodies which prevail in their community than they are by the Church's teaching, they imagine that something extraordinary is required; they feel as if they must somehow "have got" religion; or they do not feel prepared to "experience religion"; or else they don't know whether they will or will not "join the Episcopal Church." In all this we see the result of the application and use of "other systems" rather than that of the Church. Thus many an earnest and loving young heart has been lost to the Church, notwithstanding it was given to God in its tenderest years to be trained up for Him. Confirmation is not "joining the Church." If we are baptized, we have been "received into Christ's Holy Church and made a living member of the same." And because this is true, the Church has a further Blessing in store for her children. This she would bestow by the ministrations of her chief Pastors in the Laying on of Hands by the Bishop; and to this our young people might go naturally and easily and at the same time soberly and reverently, if they were properly instructed and lovingly led. There is no reason why any young baptized person might not thus go to his or her Confirmation, claiming this Blessing as their right and privilege as children of God and citizens of His Kingdom. (See BAPTISM; NAME, THE CHRISTIAN; REGENERATION; also CONFIRMATION.)


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Bibliography Information
Miller, William James. Entry for 'Joining the Church'. The American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/acd/j/joining-the-church.html. 1901.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, January 18th, 2019
the First Week after Epiphany
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