Today my sweet husband and I chose to go to our church’s first new-membership class since our new pastor started fifteen months ago.
We’ve been members of our church for seventeen years.
Last month we attended a workshop called Leader Palooza, designed to help train anyone who worked with others in a leadership-type role: Sunday School teachers, Small Group leaders, ministry coordinators, anyone who worked with people from two to one hundred. One of the things they asked was that we consider going to the membership class so we could review, or learn, the statement of faith, mission, and values of our church.
Our church was founded in 1979 and the first pastor was there until fifteen months ago when he officially retired, and the second pastor started.
I have to admit, I was a little worried how our church body would respond to a new pastor. I kept thinking of how my school, my team, the UCLA Bruins. They have never recovered following the retirement of the greatest coach of all time, John Wooden. The fans at UCLA are still lamenting the retirement of Coach Wooden thirty-eight years ago. No one since has measured up.
Fortunately, our church community is led by God and looking to glorify God, not win basketball games.
Our new pastor has been welcomed with open arms and hearts.
This is a tribute to our retired pastor, Dave Burns, who always made sure the church was God’s, not his. He paved the way for us to care about God’s Kingdom here instead of the individual doing God’s work.
It’s a tribute to our search committee, who spent time carefully and prayerfully considering where our church wanted to go next so our church would continue to expand God’s Kingdom and not try to find a replica of the leader who had done so much to set a vision.
It’s a tribute to our new pastor, Aaron McRae, and his wisdom in building on what God had started and leading us to the next steps God has for us, without forgetting our past.
I am thankful I went to this membership class. Just as I have been week after week for the last fifteen months worshipping and learning from this young man who is just a couple of years older than my oldest daughter. I was impressed with the wisdom of Aaron McRae. He is passionate about serving God, seeking God’s will and faithfully serving Him. Everything he said, even though I already knew it, was refreshing to hear.
As a long-time Christ-follower, church goer, and a member of this church, it is easy to lose the passion to do God’s work, to serve Him with a joyful, faithful, willing heart.
Reviewing our Statement of Faith reminded me of who I believe God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit–the Trinity–are and the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope I have because God loves us enough to give everything for a relationship with me and you. I was humbled, awed, and thankful all at once.
Hearing our mission, to gather for worship, grow in faith and service so I continue to mature as a disciple, and go to reach others for Christ in my own circle of influence and beyond, inspired me to be faithful in my earthly journey so God’s Kingdom comes on earth as it is in heaven.
Our church values gave a vision of where we want to go, not to gain better things for us, but to live what we believe. As Aaron said, this is what makes our church unique. Not better than another evangelical, Christ-folllowers, just how we live for Him here.
Aaron ended the class with two things: One, what next? And that depends on each individual.
What is next for me? Serving in a way that glorifies God. Currently that means filling in when my Small Group needs a leader, participating in taking food every month to help our local food bank, the GAP (God Always Provides), and being salt and light right where I am in my every day life as a seventh grade teacher. It means continuing to grow in my pursuit of living as someone freed from the bondage of sin and extending God’s grace and mercy to others.
The second thing he asked was to prayerfully decide whether to commit to membership. There was nothing about what to do if you were already a member.
In a spirit of awe and joy at all I heard and witnessed over the past fifteen months, I wrote a simple sentence, “I am already a member of Hillside. I recommit to following the statement of faith, mission, and values. Then I signed my name.
How wonderful it is that we can look back at the history of Hillside with joy and recognize the work that has already been done and continuing the best of traditions and vision while also looking and moving forward to do more.
Unlike sports, we aren’t keeping score. We aren’t after a national championship. We’re fishers of men, looking to the author and finisher of our faith. We aren’t striving to hang a banner announcing our success, but praying that in all we do, God is glorified and His Kingdom is enlarged.
Next time your church offers a membership class, whether you’re new or you’ve been a member for a while, go.
Be inspired by God. Marvel at what He has already done for you. Listen for what He wants to do next. Pray about what your next step should be.
Then do it.