I just had one of the coolest experiences of my life. "What's that?" you might ask. To which I would respond in an emphatic though probably anticlimactic way, "A church membership interview." And then I would proceed to tell you how AWESOME it was. And since, if you were to ask me, I would tell you, how about I assume you did? :)
So it was something like this. I didn't know what it was all going to be about, but I had checked the interested in becoming a member box in church, and they had contacted me, had me fill out a brief form online, and then invited me to come in for an interview with the session (the pastor and the three ruling elders of my church, though one was gone). I assumed this interview would be a sterile formality, perhaps then followed by a tepid welcome, but it turns out I was wrong!
When I arrived, they were discussing various matters, but when they finished I came in.They greeted me, I sat down, and we made small talk for little bit. All normal to this point. And then began the questions! (I should make it clear that this was friendly questioning--no pressure, awkwardness, intimidation, or anything. Encouraging.) First, I was asked how I would explain the gospel, in three sentences or less, to someone who had only cursory knowledge of Jesus. Then, I was asked about the specifics of what Jesus did. Why did he need to come? What did his dying accomplish? Why is it important he lived a perfect life? Then they asked me questions about my understanding of the church. Who are the people of God? What is their purpose? What does making disciples look like? What is the kingdom of God? How does God speak to and strengthen his people? And finally, they asked some questions about my personal walk with Jesus, both past and present.
Reading this, I realize you may wonder about me, being excited and all. But these questions were real and had a powerful motivation. They said that only one thing was Biblically required for acceptance into the Church, and that is a credible profession of faith. So, first, they were determining if I demonstrated a full knowledge of the Gospel (how can I believe it if I don't understand it?) and its outworkings, and then they set about finding out about me so that they might effectively shepherd me. And they weren't kidding. It wasn't a formality. Three godly men were sitting around the questions, sincerely asking me if I believed and understood the gospel and its relation to my life. Isn't that what church leadership should be?
And then, when it came time for the vows, they made it quite clear that if I hadn't considered the membership vows and their explanations, I should not take them, because vows are serious. So I went away for a bit and read through them. Considering them carefully, I had no issues, and I then took the vows, and they accepted me to the church, and laid hands on me and prayed over me.
Man, I came out of the interview praising God for my salvation, marveling at the wonder of the church, and feeling strengthened, accepted, and supported in my walk with Christ. It was awesome to see an interview that had the potential to be a dead formality so infused with purpose and life. I can't help but feel that that hour was a glimpse of how the church ought to function in everything it does. Can you catch a glimpse of it? Every Christian, aware of the amazing work that is God's church. Every member, working to support each other. The leaders, conscious of the gravity of their position. WOW!!! May that be what I always work towards.