5 Reasons Why People Won't Join a Church (and What to Say to Them)

Joe has attended your church for about a year. He says he’s a Christian. But he has not joined. Should you encourage him to join? How?

If you don’t think church membership is biblical, then you should say nothing. If you do, then keep reading.

First off, I do think you should address Joe. It’s easier to say nothing, but it may be self-protection that’s motivating you to keep quiet. It’s not love for Joe.


When I find out someone has not joined, I usually begin by asking if he or she plans on joining. Where I go from there partly depends on how well I know the person.

Don’t Miss

  • Just met: If Joe and I are shaking hands for the first time over bad coffee in a Styrofoam cup in the church foyer, I probably won’t say anything.
  • Fifteen minutes: If Joe and I have been talking for fifteen minutes, and there’s an easy rapport between us, and we’re on a second cup of bad coffee,  I just might, in the most affable manner I can muster, say, “You should think about joining!” And yes, I’ll say it with an exclamation point—a wagging-tail Labrador-like exclamation point.
  • Relationship: If Joe and I have known each other for any length of time, then I will probably push toward a more deliberate conversation.


These more deliberate conversations veer back and forth between the biblical and the practical. Typically, I generally encourage a person to join the church:

1. For the sake of the pastors. It lets the pastors know who you are and makes them responsible for you (see Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17).

2. For the sake of obedience to Jesus. Jesus did not give you the keys of the kingdom for binding and loosing. He gave the keys to the apostolic local church (Matt. 16:13-20; 18:15-20). You don’t have the authority to baptize yourself or feed yourself the Lord’s Supper. It requires a church to affirm your profession of faith, which is what membership is at its very heart (see Acts 2:38).

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Jonathan is the director of communications for 9Marks. He first joined Capitol Hill Baptist Church in 1996. After a stint in journalism, he felt called to ministry in 2001. Since then he has completed one seminary degree, is working on another, and has served as interim pastor in two churches. Jonathan is absolutely amazed that God has saved him, in spite of all the reasons he has given him not to. He’s also amazed that he has a wonderful wife, Shannon, and two young daughters, Emma and Hannah.

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