Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's Official!

Last January Nathan, Lucy and I began visiting Calvary Bible Church (CBC) after leaving the church we had attended for about 5 years. Leaving of our old church had seemed like a long process, as we had been praying about it for quite some time. However, when it came down to it, it all happened rather quickly.

You see, we had known for quite some time that God was calling us to leave, and that we needed to follow His leading. However, leaving dearly loved friends from our old church body was really hard, and had kept us there for longer than it should have. As we prayed about our struggle Nathan shared with a friend and mentor how conflicted we were about this. This wise man of God told him that "emotional attachments shouldn't hinder you from following God's will". He was right...and we were in sin by not obeying God's leading.

To say that leaving was hard is probably an understatement. I was 36 weeks pregnant with Ben (and very emotional) the last Sunday at our old church. It was difficult to know that so many people we loved and cared about we wouldn't see much (or at all) after this, and that we wouldn't be able to share our new bundle of joy with them after his birth. On top of that, we had decided to not seek out friends that were not in our department or Sunday school class to let them know we had left. So, we really didn't say "goodbyes" to that many people. That last Sunday was like any other Sunday for everyone else, but it was like the end of a chapter for us...

BUT God is good, and a new chapter was beginning.

For at least a year we had periodically gotten on CBC's website to read up on their doctrine, statement of faith, listen to sermons, etc. There was so much that we read and heard that made us believe that there actually was a local church that had the same convictions about reformed theology, church matters and family...all in one place. So, when we knew for sure that we would be checking it out in person, we had to wonder if it was all too good to be true.

The last week of January, while 37 weeks pregnant with Ben, we visited CBC for the first time. That first Sunday was hard, but good. I held back tears as I thought about all our friends worshipping somewhere else and how we wouldn't be there again. I missed our Sunday school class. I wasn't sure of trying to find a new church so close to giving birth to a baby. Basically, I wanted things my own way, and was bitter about how things had gone...but God had different plans and was working on my heart (like always).

Although that first Sunday was a bit emotional for me, it was also very reassuring and humbling. Everyone was very inviting and friendly, probably more than I had ever seen before. They were quick to talk to us and genuinely seemed to care and be excited about us being there. The youth minister, Brent, was preaching that Sunday as Pastor Dan was out of town. We were disappointed that the pastor wouldn't be there, but were grateful for how Brent brought the Word of God to bear in a way that was sound, unapologetic and loving. It was great.

We have been at CBC ever since that first Sunday, and have not regretted following God's lead for a second. I am amazed at how much I have learned about God's Word, character, promises, love, wrath, grace, sovereignty, etc. in the last nine months. I have learned a lot about myself as well...and God has used many sermons, Sunday school lessons, Bible studies, etc. to humble and conform me to the image of Christ. Obviously, I am a work in progress...with a lot of progress to go.

We hadn't been at CBC long before we knew we would join. However, joining CBC was much different than any other church we had been to. It was a process...that could take a bit of time. It goes something like this:
  1. Complete Calvary 101 class (4 week class on the Bible, the Gospel & Salvation, the Church and Biblical Eldership)
  2. Complete and turn in New Member Application (lengthy questionnaire about our conversions, spiritual gifts, talents, how we ended up at CBC, etc).
  3. Elder interview with one of the elders to share our testimony
  4. Final elder interview with most (if not all) of the elders to share our testimony, ask any questions, to discuss certain functions of the church (such as conflict and discipline).
  5. Agree to the new member covenant verbally before the church, and in writing.
So, today we were presented before the church, and made a covenant with this body of believers that we:
  • Trust completely in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of our souls
  • Will make the Bible alone, not our own or anyone else's opinions, preferences or feelings, the standards by which we will govern our lives
  • In accordance with the teachings of Scripture, we commit to loving the other members of the church as we love ourselves and will attempt to fulfill with them the one-another commands of Scripture
  • Commit to preserving the unity of the Spirit and will pursue the things that make for peace and edification of the church
  • Will advance the cause of Christ through this church by our financial contributions, regular attendance and service
  • Will faithfully pray for the ministry leaders, the people and ministries of this church
  • Will respect, support, cooperate with, obey and submit to the leadership of this church as they exercise their biblical responsibilities of shepherding the members of this church in accordance with the Scriptures
In response, the church body committed to:
  • Welcome these people into the membership of this church
  • Love them and commit yourself to fulfilling the one-another commands of Scripture with them
  • Recommit yourself to fulfilling with them the biblical responsibilities of Christians to their local church
It's official...we are now members of Calvary Bible Church! :)

As I ponder the last nine months, and the process of joining our new church home, I am filled with joy. Joy for the work God has done. Joy for the fellowship and unity that is found in the little congregation. Joy for the love of my God and Savior. Joy for how much I have changed as a result of God's work on my heart. Just Joy. God has been more than gracious to us, and we are more than grateful to be called His.

7 comments:

Pastor Jim said...

I found your blog from search on "eldership". Our church is transitioning to a "biblical eldership AND "membership". Your basics on your membership process was helpful. If you can send more details on what exactly you learned, etc. to become a member or have your church e-mail me:(pastorjiminkane@verizon.net).

Congratulations on your membership.

Nice blog too!

Pastor Jim

Haley Frederick said...

That is awesome. Sounds like that is the way church is supposed to be. Love it! Thanks for that encouraging story of how God has orchestrated your steps.

Brent and Keri Osterberg said...

Yay! Steph! I am so happy that you and your sweet family are here to stay! We love you all so much and look forward to years of fellowship together. :)

Stephanie said...

Jim,

Thank you for your response and comments. I emailed you the contact information for our pastor, Dan Kirk. He should be able to help you out. If you aren't able to get in touch with him, please let me know.

Blessings,
Stephanie

Sarah said...

Congratulations! We are part of a reformed Church as well and our membership vows were similar. I love the details you posted. How encouraging there are churches like this around our great country!

Stephanie said...

That is great, Sarah! We don't know many people that adhere to reformed theology, much less go to a reformed church (they are few and far between). Who would have thought that we'd meet another mama of the same convictions via our Bradley instructor who taught in two different states. Random...or not. ;)

Heather said...

I'm so glad you found a church you can call home. As a pastor's wife I know it's important, but I don't think many other people realize it's significance. Praise be to God for finding the perfect fit! He is Good All the Time!!