Church…are you a “member”, what a passé word! #rettew5 #twinslife
Have you ever wondered…what does it mean to be a member of a church. This is a common assumption, question, and phrase here in the southern part of the United States. This is usually the first question when you meet someone here in Anderson, SC; it is a part of the introduction pleasantries.
How are you?
My name is …
Nice to meet you …
What church do you go to?
Ok…we are members of this church.
I have never really liked the idea of membership, this notion of belonging based on a commitment that is partly tied to evangelism. I realize this word … “membership”… may not necessarily be associated just with the church you attend, but it feels more like a financial word…one of fiscal commitment to the building.
I recently sat through a presentation where this illustration was used, created by David Hayward (known as Naked Pastor).
This speaks to me…it allows me to contextualize this idea of membership and my issue(s) with this word. This brings me to a story.
It is early Sunday morning and the boys did not sleep much with completely irregular feedings that kept Sarah and I up most of the night. All I remember is sitting in the recliner feeding George at 3:30am, falling asleep while he was drinking feverishly. I finally got him down, go to bed, and wake-up to Sarah feeding Henry at 7am.
As I walk into the den, there were carcasses of used bottles spread through out the room. As I gathered them, put them in the sink to be washed, I was immediately reminded in my half awake stupor…today is the 10 year anniversary of Sarah’s mom passing away.
It was this day, ten years ago today…Mrs. Denise passed away from triple-negative metastatic breast cancer, a highly aggressive and brutal cancer. If she was here…on this earth…she would be here, helping us. She would not let these carcasses amass in this sink.
As I stood in the kitchen, I realized Rosebud had spent the night with a friend and would be heading to church in just a few minutes. I needed to figure out our morning, I knew Sarah would not want to go to church. She had little sleep on a day marked by her mother’s passing…church morning pleasantries would not be top priority. So…what is church? What is membership? What does it mean to have God around you, as we re-consider this image above.
As I pulled out my phone and sent Ellen Sechrest a text, our minister at Boulevard Baptist Church; I came to realize this word…this word membership does not match what happened next.
Here is my text exchange (I am writing in blue and Ellen is writing in gray):
This is not membership, this is church. Ellen brought church from the physical building at Boulevard Baptist Church to our house.
As I reflected for a few minutes, I think back to my time growing up in church. Here is a question, have you been inside a church where the attendance was posted at the front of the sanctuary. That reminder of “commitment” and “membership”, one that many respond so well. This Generation X father (thats me born in 1974) never understood that approach, one of physical metrics as a reminder of a faith commitment.
It reminds me of my time as a journalist covering Billy Graham, this was a three year project. I spent most of my journalistic career in Charlotte, NC creating a two hour obituary of Billy Graham as preparation for his death. Sounds morbid, but many appreciate these stories when a notable figure passes away, immediately played on television for those to remember and reflect. That was my job.
In my travels during this project, he would always end one of his revivals called a “crusade” with “the call.” It was his final statement to end his preaching asking people to commit themselves to God, to walk down to the front, received a Bible, speak to someone, and show their commitment to this journey.
It is a moving experience to watch this unfold, especially given he said the same thing during “the call” since his first tent revival in Los Angeles in 1936. We actually pulled together these statements and edited them together showing the same words from 1936 in LA until 2005 in NY City.
But, this evangelism, even thought very moving, always felt a bit awkward to me…this physical representation of commitment. Membership is what comes to mind.
Church has never been a place where I like to outwardly showcase my faith commitment, it is a personal experience for me. It is very personal, so personal it is hard to write about these thoughts.
These are words that feel better. A family of people with similar interests, similar paths, and a common commitment to a walk. A family that realizes attending church on Sunday morning for attendance purposes is not as important as getting sleep. Our minister Ellen understands what it means to be the church to families like Sarah and I, the church is bigger than one morning of having our rear ends in a pew. She knows the church is called to a bigger commitment, to be a family member to two tired parents on a Sunday where church is happening.
This morning…I like the idea of God all around us. And on this day, I think Mrs. Denise is here…given us the strength to ask for help. This is the church I see that is bigger than membership, bigger than my rear end sitting in a pew…missional commitment to family. This is the “church” I want Rosebud, George, and Henry to grow up, surrounded by a family, a church family, a missional family.
This morning, church is laying our head on a pillow getting the much needed sleep to prepare for the week. Church is knowing we can sleep, because Rose, George, and Henry spent the morning with their church family.