Monthly Archives: February 2018

Why Nazarene Church Membership Matters

The next two Wednesdays I will be teaching a church membership class. We will talk about what our church believes and how we operate. I won’t teach the secret handshake (we don’t have one) or give out decoder rings to the Central Church pyramid scheme (umm… we don’t have those either).  Generally, at the start of the class I say something like, “I’m the least membership oriented pastor you will ever have.”  The reason for that admission is that one’s “Nazareneness” or lack thereof will not be a part of the entrance exam into heaven (there’s an entrance exam?).  St Peter (or whoever is the gatekeeper, actually I don’t think there is a gatekeeper) will not ask to see your Central Membership Card prior to entry (we don’t give out membership cards. We are a church not Costco).  You also won’t have to give your favorite Nazarene Potluck casserole recipe, name any of the general superintendents or tell how many Sunday afternoon Nazarene Naps you have taken.

Having written all of that, I still believe church membership matters.  Here’s why:

1)  Church Membership doesn’t say, “Yippee! I have finally found the perfect church.”  Central isn’t perfect. We have humans (including me) making decisions and we aren’t perfect (especially me).

2)  Church Membership doesn’t say, “We have everything figured out.”  We clearly don’t have everything figured out.  Every four years the Church of the Nazarene has a gathering where the elected delegates (I was one last summer in Indy) change our by-laws and re-work them.  Some stuff gets taken out and other stuff is added.  The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene is a working, changing document.  All this to say, we don’t think we have a corner on the truth.

3)  Church membership says, “These are my people.”  We can’t pick our biological family, you are stuck with them (even the crazy ones).  But a church family– you get to choose.  You say, in effect, these people are my people, even the crazy ones.  They are not perfect. Some of them didn’t vote the way I voted.  Some of them don’t like my kind of music and are very bad at social media interaction.  They are not always refined, but I will stick by their side, in good times and bad.  I will support and love them and receive support and love from them. They are mine and I am theirs. I belong here.”

Here’s the bottom line on church membership.  I think there is something refreshing in an era when commitment to anything seems to be at all-time low and when more and more people are identifying as a “none” when it comes to church affiliation, for people to stand in front of a church and say: “These people can count on me to love, serve and join with them to see God’s Kingdom built in Flint (in our case) as it is in Heaven.”  I love when people band together and say, “We are better together and God is up to something good in this place because of it.”

Fact Checking Punxsutawney Phil and Other Animal Holiday Proposals

Tomorrow is GROUND HOG Day.  You know how it works. If the fraidy cat rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of disgusting winter.  It’s kind of a dumb tradition if you ask me. I won’t take a Pennsylvania ground hog’s advice on just about anything, let alone the winter weather patterns over the next several weeks.  Still my calendar (with little regard for fact checking of the meteorological marmot) calls tomorrow: Ground Hog Day.

All of this got me thinking: “Why should ground hogs be the only animal to have a special day?” There are plenty of other creatures in the animal kingdom who are just as deserving to have a day designated in their honor (maybe more deserving than an overly nervous Pennsylvania woodchuck). So to that end, I offer the following:

Lion Day. Second Sunday in September. If a Detroit Lion sees the shadow of a goal post, it hides and Lion fans get six more months of bad football.  Like other holidays that have special greetings (i.e. “Merry Christmas” or “He is Risen” on Easter), people in Detroit on Lion Day tell each other “Wait ‘til next year.”

Giraffe Day. If a Giraffe feels rain on the top of his head, then rain will certainly hit other creatures very, very soon and that day will also be known as a “rainy day.”

Deer Day.  December 1.  If a deer sees his shadow, he does a little dance because he or she has avoided a hunter’s bullet throughout the Michigan Deer Hunting Season.

Turkey Day.  I know what you’re thinking: “We already have ‘Turkey Day,’ it’s slang for Thanksgiving when we eat turkey and watch the Lions lose.”  Not so fast, pilgrim. Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for your blessings. Period. The REAL Turkey Day is more of an anti-Thanksgiving holiday when we recognize the real turkeys are not in the oven but those that refuse to appreciate and count their blessings.

I don’t have much hope that Congress will recognize any of these special days, but there is one day that I know will happen.  It’s called LAMB Day and get ready for this: Every day in heaven will be LAMB Day.  This is how Revelation 5:11-13 describes it:

 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

 “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

We can do without all of these other animal holidays (and a few others made by Hallmark holidays), but let’s determine to not miss LAMB Day.  In the meantime, have a great day honoring the Lamb with your lives and actions.  And let’s hope that the silly ground hog doesn’t see his shadow tomorrow.