Is That All There is to It?

The night before the recent CTC Conference on Stewardship, the Cabinet met with Clif Christopher and Joe Park (the Conference teachers).  Those of you who know stewardship and know Clif are aware that the subject is really spiritual formation, mission and vision for Christ. Near the end of the evening he shared the following story which I paraphrase from memory.

Clif was sitting in a church on Sunday morning as they waited for the service to start.  As they passed the registration pad on, he noticed that the woman next to him checked the box “wish to join the church.”  When they came to the greeting time, he greeted her by name and commented about her desire to join the church.  “Yes,” she said.  “I’ve checked that box for three weeks in a row.  How do you join this church?”

Just about then the pastor came up the aisle greeting people.  Clif stepped out of his pew and guided the pastor to the woman and said, “Mary wants to join the church.”

The pastor warmly greeted her.  She asked again, “How do I go about joining this church?”  With a big smile the Pastor replied, “You just did!”

As the Pastor returned to the front to continue the service, she leaned over to Clif and whispered, “Is that all there is to it?”

Membership used to mean discipleship.  It still should. Disciples are disciplined, committed followers of Jesus Christ.  Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  The mission is not for the casual; it is for the committed.  Clif spoke a great deal about the need to raise expectations.  There is a deep theology of commitment and faith under the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The early Methodist movement was built on high commitment.  You had to be a member of a class meeting for spiritual growth, nurture and maturation.  It was expected that members were engaged in hands-on ministry with the poor.  Giving, yes tithing! — 10%, was an expectation.  Witnessing and faith sharing (evangelism) was common.  Membership in a Methodist Church was far from casual!

The reader can trace this out.  In the early Christian movement and the early Methodist movement, the five practices of fruitful congregations and fruitful living (or some biblical version thereof) were expectations.  Here is fodder for a serious theological and spiritual conversation in an Administrative Board or Council meeting.  How do we raise the conversation about expectations under The Lordship of Jesus Christ?  How do we move from membership back to discipleship?

We have to begin with a conversation between lay and clergy leadership.  This cannot be accomplished by “fiat.”  But, the lingering question of the woman in the pew hangs in the air.  “Is that all there is to it?”  Surely there is more to joining the church than a casual relationship.  May the conversation take place.

 

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