Becoming members of our church!

Sunday was a very exciting day for Justin and me.  Sunday we became members of Live Oak Christian Church.

When we moved to the area, we visited a handful of different churches trying to find one where we were both comfortable.  This is always a challenge, especially when one half of the couple grew up with a contemporary service and the other grew up traditional Lutheran.  There’s a pretty big gap in expectations when it comes to the service.  So it’s good when there’s at least one major requirement in mind for both halves of the couple—well-thought, intelligent Biblical teaching.

We visited a handful of churches near our new home and found ourselves returning again to Live Oak.  We were hesitant at first.  They meet in the high school.  The idea of this kind of weirded Justin out and I was worried about the stability of the church.  But we very much enjoyed the teaching and the people were very friendly.  It felt comfortable.  It felt like a place where we could stay.

We kept coming back to the church for a handful of months after that.  The pastor kept on giving good sermons.  The people stayed nice.  I started seeing ways that I could get involved.  We decided we’d go in January to the once-monthly Starting Point class to learn more about the specifics of the church.

There were five of us in the class, plus Pastor Michael made six.  And one of the first things he said was that Live Oak is a plant from a church in Savannah called Savannah Christian Church pastured by Cam Huxford.  The church where Justin and I had been attending before the move.  Suddenly everything made so much sense!  “No wonder it feels so comfortable!”

The rest of the class was a lot of fun.  We walked through the curriculum the pastor had prepared and asked as many questions as we liked.  The other people in the class were a lot of fun to chat with and the conversations were very interesting.  I knew when we got out to the car after the end of the class that I was perfectly happy to become a member of the church.  But I wasn’t sure about Justin.

Imagine my delight, then, when he turned to me in the car and told me that if I wanted him to, he’d become a member of this church with me.  “Even though you’d have to get rebaptized?” I asked.  The church insists on baptism by immersion and he had been baptized by sprinkling when he was 12.  “Even though,” he said.

I about hit the moon I was so excited!  I understand and accept that my faith is stronger than my husband’s, so it’s absolutely thrilling to hear him interested in getting involved in the church.  And something as serious as this?!  Just about knocks me over.

We talked about it a handful of times after that, about the implications and our thoughts about it and everything.  Finally the decision was set and we decided to talk with the pastor.  I made cookies the night before church, both because Justin and I wanted cookies, but also because at the end of the service the previous Sunday, there had been some discussions mentioned about the financial problems the church is facing.  It seemed like maybe the pastor could use some encouragement and cookies are so good at that.

Pastor Michael was surprised and happy to get the cookies.  And also happy to hear that we’d like to become members.  He said that we could do it the following Sunday at the same time as two other families who were coming forward to join.  We’d gone through the class, which was one of the requirements.  And after the service the next week, he was doing a baptism for one of the other families becoming members, so Justin could come at the same time for that.  We were surprised, having throught that we’d have much longer to wait, but also delighted to do it so soon.

The next Sunday, last Sunday, February 1st, 2009, at the end of the service, Pastor called us all down to the front of the church and introduced us to the congregation.  And that was it!  He asked us to stay up at the front so people could greet us, and we shook lots of hands as people walked out.  Lots of smiles, a couple hugs, lots of very happy welcoming.

After the service was the once-monthly Gathering where people bring food and sit around in the cafeteria chatting and munching on food.  Justin and I sat at a table and a handful of people came up and introduced themselves and sat to chat for a while.  I think I talked to more people that one morning that I have the entirety of the last six months.  So many friendly people to talk with!

We were some of the last people to leave since we were waiting for the pastor and all the rest of the staff who were coming to the baptism.  Since the church doesn’t have its own building, baptisms take place at all sorts of different places.  This time, the other family getting baptized lived in a housing community with a full athletic complex.  We followed the children’s pastor to the community and, wow.  It’s a beautiful place to live.  The homes are breathtaking and the lots are enormous and the property is wooded and beautiful.  It must be an expensive place to live.  The athletic complex has a huge pool outside and lots of weight-lifting machines and rooms for Pilates and aerobic classes.

And a spa.  Complete with a heated pool.  Not just a hot tub because those tend to be kind of small.  This thing was about five times the size of a hot tub.

We all crowded into the spa pool area, trying not to be too loud for the sake of the other people in the spa.  Pastor baptized the father of the other family, Mike.  Then his daughter and his son were both baptized by the children’s pastor and the youth pastor.  And then Justin went in and was baptized by Pastor Michael.  Poor Justin’s half-blind without his glasses and, lately, a light-sensitive eye infection in one eye that makes him keep that eye closed most of the time, so he couldn’t see me beaming at him and trying to take pictures.  The whole thing was very exciting to me.

We all stood around hugging and taking pictures for a little while until we couldn’t stand the heat in the room anymore.  The pastors and Justin went to change in the lockers in the fitness center, the other family ran home to change, and Mike, the father of the family living at the community, invited us all to stay for lunch at the restaurant next to the gym.  So about a dozen and a half of us went over and ate lunch together.

The food was really delicious and we got to get to know Mike and the youth pastor and his wife.  I think I could be friends with the youth pastor’s wife if it wasn’t that the church can’t afford to keep them on and they’re looking for a new church, probably in Indiana.

When we left, around 3:30 in the afternoon, Justin said that he’d never done that before.  I asked him what he meant.  He said he’d never been involved in a church group before.  He’d never been a member of a church before.  The whole thing was new to him.  I hadn’t really thought about it before, since the whole thing is so familiar to me.  I’ve always been involved in church groups and events like these.  And I’m so tickled to be able to share it with Justin now.

(Check the gallery for a few pictures of it all.)

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