This is the first of a few faith/ministry posts that have been buzzing around my head. - I read a sentence this morning which I have been unable to find again, but it went something like this; "We write not only to tell others what we are thinking, but to tell ourselves what we are thinking."... this is true of my blog posts. Life is a journey and blogging helps me to sort out where I am on that journey.Membership lists..
Last Sunday a couple who years ago used to be active in our church, were visiting our worship service. They now live in a different part of the country but she asked if they were still on our church members' list as "isolated Members". It seemed important to them that they be on such a list. In our church these days we keep a fairly fluid membership list, but we will add them if being listed is important to them. I tend to think less and less of such clearly defined lists.
Who is "in"? Confession of "faith"?
These days around our congregation people seem to just be absorbed into the membership. If they seem interested and hang around long enough they are "in". We purposely call ourselves the "Church of Christ Community" because we see that there are many people we have contact with who we would recognise as part of "us", even though they may not be traditional, "Church-going-saints". I would still encourage people to be baptised if they are interested, but don't see this as a condition of "membership". This, of course, is not how it has traditionally been and perhaps many in our congregation, certainly many in our denomination would brand me a "heretic" for this approach. I got to thinking about this the other day while I was driving between fire stations. (I had been having a "lively discussion" with an atheist) We used to traditionally ask for a "confession of faith". We would ask prospective members the question, "Do you believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and do you accept him as your Lord and Saviour?" If the person said "yes" he/she was "in". (after baptism of course) I got to wondering if I was to run a church along my lines these days, and I felt that some sort of public confession was appropriate, what would be the confession I would ask for? Here goes; "Do you want to follow Jesus in your living, and do you accept him as your mentor and guide for life?" There is a whole lot of theological thinking behind this which I will not go into. I mention two things that lead me in this direction.
(1) There are a whole lot of people who would give mental assent to metaphysical/mythological statements about Jesus (Christ, Son of God, Lord, Saviour) who appear to think that this "belief" is all that is involved in being a Christian. In my view, the experiences these words point to are discovered when we first "follow" Jesus, and today we may well use different words. Faith is very different from mental assent.
(2) The more I read scripture and about the style and type of literature the Bible is, the more I struggle to take on board the traditional understandings of such words as "Son of God, Christ, Lord, and Saviour" (e.g. Theologian and thinker Karen Armstrong seems to point out that the use of the terms "son of God" and "Christ" in the gospels does not necessarily imply that the writers or Jesus himself thought of Jesus as divine.) At the same time in my journey, I have never felt more that Jesus and his way are relevant for my life and needed in the life of our community and world.
So the question (if I thought one was needed) I would ask prospective members of "my" church would be, "Do you want to follow Jesus in your living, and do you accept him as your mentor and guide for life?"
But that makes me a "square peg in a round hole" as a minister in a Church.
Photo: Life is a journey, blogging helps me sort out where I am on the path.