catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 6 :: 2014.03.21 — 2014.04.03



“No,” he said. “The deacons felt that since you only come Sunday morning and to monthly youth events, it doesn’t look like you’re that serious about church. So you cannot be baptized.”  I was 14.  My parents were not church goers, and I lived too far to walk, so I was happy just to get there Sunday mornings. But that day, I felt as though I had been kicked in the stomach.  I was not good enough.

I figured they were the church leadership, and they had a right to make the rules.  At that church, baptism meant church membership, and that meant belonging.  Though I had attended the church for four years, as faithfully as I could, I still didn’t belong. 

Now I look back and understand that what happened as wrong, but I didn’t then.  My pastor had just affirmed what I felt: I was not a church kid.  My parents didn’t hang around and talk after church.  They didn’t teach VBS or Sunday school or even come to church.  I was not good enough to belong to church.  But I knew I belonged to God.

It took another seven years before I would be baptized, along with my husband, just before we left Penn State for Bible college and the mission field.

So what does all of this mean?  I wonder if belonging to a church, whatever you have to do to be good enough to qualify for membership, is somehow missing the boat.  I wonder if it has become more about power and less about loving one another and forming a community of people who would serve one another.

I wonder what would have happened all those years ago if my pastor had come back to me rejoicing because the church saw potential in me, and recognized that they would have the opportunity to mentor and disciple a young person, to guide her on her spiritual journey.  Instead, I was like a “bus kid” back in the day — someone who comes in and leaves fairly untouched, except by God.  I had come to faith in God six years earlier, and my faith, my confidence in God was real.  I had memorized and recited over 100 verses in that church; you could go to camp for free if you did that, but I still didn’t measure up.  As I reflect on all of this, it was almost as if they had to protect the church from outsiders, that God couldn’t do it by Himself.

Somehow I think God does not need our protection.  I wonder if membership is the wrong word.  You don’t have to qualify to be a member of a human family; you are just born into it.  So in God’s family, you are born again into it, automatically a member, someone who belongs. 

It’s easier, I know, to exercise power, to have a list of expectations and qualifications and responsibilities than to allow a newborn to learn as he or she grows, mentored along the way.  Power is difficult to surrender.

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