"And I am awed by Bailey's faith. By way of testimony, a couple of Sundays before her baptism, she took an offering envelop and filled out her name and put $0 on the amount line. Then, she wrote the following on the back and placed it in the offering plate: 'I love this church and I never want to leave!'"
Now I know how I like to rant about the Church sometimes (well...a lot, actually), but it's only because I love it so much. Granted, I don't love the institution, and I could care less about the buildings themselves (although there has been many Cathedrals in NY and Europe that have left me breathless), but I love the concept of what the Church should be...and in some cases/places, are!
Bailey's gesture represents how I feel about the Idea of the "church as community". If that church is a good place, a place I can trust, a place that is truly attempting to accomplish God's work of Kingdom Building in this world...then it is a place I want to offer myself fully and completely to! It is a place where I want to sit myself in the offering plate/basket/box and give my all to that community and its work! It is finding those places that I keep saying that is the hard part!
This is how I feel about church membership. I have completely removed myself from what it means in churches (at least in the Baptist world), because it seems to mean nothing more than having your name "on role" so that they may count you among their numbers! At my last 2 churches I separated the dates of me getting hired by the church and the time that I joined the ch. as a member. At my last ch. I did not join for a couple of months after I was hired....on purpose. I (or more specifically and realistically, the pastor (since no one ever complains to the person whom they are complaining about)) received complaints and questions as to why I had yet to join. When my wife and I did join shortly after, I stood up and made a statement about why I had put time in between. It went something like this:
I was hired by this ch. to do a job. I am paid to do that job. But I come before you today asking to be accepted, not as a hired minister, but as a fellow member. I separate these two things because to me, to be a member is to say that I am FULLY dedicated to being a part of the mission and ministry of this community beyond the duties of my job. To be a member is to be an active and engaged part of what it means to be ___insert name of ch. here______! To pull my weight as whatever part of the body I am called and needed to be!
Although I don't really hold to the old ways of membership, I need that place in my life where I can offer myself fully and completely to that community. Fortunately, the discussion community that I'm so lucky to be a part of, has, and is still becoming that place for me. I am fully dedicated to the success (not measured by any traditional markers, but by fulfilling the needs of those who's paths we can cross, whatever they may be) of this group. Still, I keep my eyes open in search of other communities that are doing what they are being called to do, where I will be accepted and loved unconditionally, where I can sit in their offering plate!
Thanks TM for sharing your stories!!!