The Church of God

What it Means to Belong

A Review by Jay Green


The sub-title is, What It Means to Belong? The author outlines what are the privileges of membership in a local church, and what are the responsibilities attached to such membership. Though extolling the value of private worship through prayer and praise, Fortner expresses the opinion that public worship is even more important. He cites the many mentions in the Psalms of going into the house of God for worship, accompanied by like-minded persons. This is his reasoning: "Each local congregation of believers is the house and temple of the living God (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 1 Tim. 3:15). God reveals His blessings and instructs His people in His temple, His church. It is in this place that God speaks to men by His Spirit through the Word" (p. 5). The historic Baptist position is taken regarding the makeup of the church, the government of the church, etc. The church is not a building, says Fortner. The church is the congregation, wherever they may meet. Being a Baptist of the same stripe, this reviewer certainly recommends the book. We did not agree with the application of the parable of the tares, which the Author takes to mean that we are not to seek to uproot the tares, but to leave the goats among the sheep and allow Christ to separate them. The usual result of this is that the goats butt the believers so aggressively that they disturb the worship, and very often drive the believers out as well. Also, the firm statement that one must attend church to worship brings up the question so prevalent today, where one is to find a church where true worship is being held. There are many communities, whole cities, where no such church is to be found. This does not negate the stands taken in this book for the normal operation of a church of the living God. But would it not be helpful to address whether people are to attend a church where Jesus Christ is all but ignored, if not downright denigrated, while the will of man is nurtured week end and week out? We recommend it. JG