Let’s get right to it – this post is about church membership. And as it is with most things, this is about that. When I was 17, I left the church I grew up in (Tabernacle Baptist Institutional Church) to participate in a growing United Methodist congregation in the Baymeadows area of Jacksonville. It was my love for Jesus and commitment to His mission that catalyzed that move. Tabernacle raised me, baptized me, gave me opportunities to lead from age 9 and created an environment where the Word of God could live inside of me. My spiritual roots are deep because of the women and men (mostly the women to be honest) of that church. However, there was a day that my faith led me to leave, and I think God blessed that decision. I would spend the next several years at CrossRoad UMC.
I was raised at Tabernacle, but I matured at CrossRoad. I started leading worship at CRC before I joined the church. Gee, Sandy, Mike and Cathy gave me opportunities to explore my calling and my gifts. They hired me and gave me room to dream and innovate. They tolerated me as I was learning (sometimes reluctantly) how to make a positive contribution to the team. CRC Roadies believed in me, supported me, prayed for me and even wrestled with me. Today, I am in campus ministry because the leaders at this church saw something in me that I didn’t see. If you think I am an effective leader, it’s only because of the lessons that I learned at CrossRoad. I will always love the House that built me.
Once again, I sense Jesus inviting me to employ my faith and continue on the journey of pouring my life out for God’s mission.
This summer, I am moving my membership to Swaim UMC in the San Marco area. It’s a bit weird for me to be honest. Changing churches has always been a tough subject for me. I can remember having issues with family when they were thinking about leaving Tabernacle and friends when they were struggling with membership at CrossRoad. In fact, I’m sure there are some old blogs and fb posts on this subject that I might have to roll back. Again, church membership, I have found, is often about more than where you hang out on Sundays and even worship style. What I didn’t know when I was 17 was that I’d be a different person almost 20 years later, and those changes affect every area of life – including church membership.
I am joining Swaim for similar reasons that I joined CrossRoad – my role in the mission of Jesus. In the last 5 years, I have poured my life into building Campus to City, but I’ve also been living in the Avondale area. Not surprisingly, I have made beautiful friendships with the folks I have met in the urban core neighborhoods of Jacksonville. It’s been these relationships that led me to start Urban Soul.
So when I felt the Spirit’s challenge to consider worshipping in my own area versus driving across town, Swaim UMC made sense. Their support of CCW and their ministry to the homeless were compelling. The sense of community and use of liturgy during worship rang true for me. And their openness to young leadership (reminiscent of my days at Tabernacle and CrossRoad) inspired me. But most of all, I really believe Jesus has led me to Swaim for what I can give this faith community, not really what they might give me. This point is a huge shift in my thinking around church membership.
I spent the first half of 2016 praying about this decision. I sought counsel from trusted friends. When I made the decision, I made space to talk to Gee and a couple of the leaders at CRC. I’m gonna miss being a part of CrossRoad as they continue their work in the Deerwood/Windy Hill area. But I am excited about what lies ahead.
I am blogging about this for a few reasons. One is just to make it clear why I am changing churches. I’m not mad or hurt by anyone at CRC. If anything, I am indebted with gratitude to them. I wanted to fill the vacuum as friends and colleagues learned that I was changing churches. But there’s another reason I published this post.
I want to encourage all who are reading this to continue to allow the Spirit of Jesus to lead you. Following Jesus is active and dynamic. If you pay close attention to the major characters of the New Testament, you’ll find that they were constantly on a journey. Faith in Jesus does that – it continues to move you from place to place. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll change churches. But something has to change from year to year right? There must be some outward sign that we are moving, like Peter, from fishing in the Sea of Galilee to preaching in the middle of Jerusalem. If we’re gonna follow Jesus over decades, there has to be some tangible sign that we are moving from faith to faith and glory to glory.
In response to a question about risk taking, Andy Stanley once replied, “Do the thing that requires the most faith in Jesus.” For me, moving to Swaim is one of a few faith steps I am taking as I follow Jesus. I hope you’ll also hear Jesus’ invitation to follow Him on your faith journey.