What should be the requirements for membership and what should our expectations of members be?
That’s the question that’s been on my mind for a while now, and especially as we have moved into our sermon series on membership. Right now, our requirements are: a desire to join the church, having been baptized, and a willingness to reaffirm that baptism. Our expectations of members are, if I do say so, a pretty low bar: to worship with and/or contribute monetarily to the church at least once a year. Should they stay that way?
Because our current requirements include baptism, Pastor Brenda and I thought it would be worthwhile to begin our series with an historic look at baptism – generally and within our denominations. On a drive recently, as I was thinking about this sermon series, I thought about all the things we left out of those first two sermons on baptism. For instance, we didn’t talk about sacraments and their role in the church. We didn’t talk about covenant. We barely scratched the surface on community.
Then I reminded myself that the sermons in this series will total only two to two-and-a-half hours. That’s barely a couple class sessions, and I know from experience that one could study the sacraments for a semester and still feel like there is more to cover and discover. I sure hope you are spending time thinking about this subject in the time between the sermons, that you’re praying about this with an ear listening for what the Holy Spirit may be saying to you.
Next up, will be a sermon working on answering the question, What does it mean to be a church? (This sermon will have been preached by the time you read this, though I’m still working on its content). Then we’ll move to two sermons about what it means to join a church (one from Pastor Brenda and one from me). And then we’ll look at liturgy. Based on our (hopefully deeper) understandings of baptism and membership, what are the appropriate things for us to say and ask as part of a baptism liturgy and as part of a uniting-in-membership liturgy?
All of these sermons are being posted on the church’s website sermon page (https://www.nilesdiscoverychurch.org/ndc.php?page=Sermons) – hopefully both the manuscript and a video (if technology continues to work for us). I also post a manuscript of my sermons on my blog (https://jeffsjottings.wordpress.com/). If you missed one, I hope you will catch up.
My suspicion is that the last two sermons really won’t be completed until the Town Hall Meetings that will follow worship on those two Sundays, February 17 and 24. I really wish I could tell you want to expect at the Town Hall Meetings, but because they will flow out of the sermons, and those sermons haven’t been written yet, I don’t know what to expect.
Nonetheless, I trust that our mutual discernment, our mutual listening to each other, to the inner, still, small voice, and to the Holy Spirit, will lead us into whatever the appropriate future should be for our congregation.
That’s one of the many things I love about this church: we are willing to listen. We trust one another and we trust ourselves and we trust God. And that makes all the difference.