Saturday, January 30, 2016

A User's Guide to Joining the Club

Join the club!

The casino in Las Vegas where I recently attended a conference wanted me to join their club. Because I look like a high roller, right? So many clubs to choose from! I am a member of the coffee shop club, which appeases me with the occasional free drink to make me feel better about their inflated prices. I can't get into Costco to shop without their club card--and they have a picture of me that makes my driver's license photo look like a Glamour Shot. If I want help by the side of the road, I need to be in the club. I could pay double the price for a package of cough drops, but if I'm in the drug store club...voila! Menthol in my sinus passages for a reasonable price!

Club requirements vary widely. Maybe you remember the days of the Columbia Record and Tape (later CD) Club. 12 albums for a penny! Then pay 2-3 times the normal price over the next 2 years for an album each month...I'm embarrassed to say how many times I tried joining that club. Some clubs will let you join only if you give them permission to spam you until you can't see your email inbox. Other clubs want to lull you into complacency with free stuff, until you forget they have your credit card number and start charging a monthly membership fee. Some clubs promise status, some promise benefits, some promise connections. We live in a world of membership opportunities.

Look in your wallet or desk. There is evidence of all kinds of memberships and clubs in your life.

How is it there are more and more clubs in the world, but less belonging?

I won't try to fool you and say the church is the best place to belong. Sometimes the church can be the worst place to belong. I have stories from 18 years as a pastor that make me wonder what the church has to offer the world. But I believe in the church's ability to be a public space where the important things of life are discussed, pondered, and lived out. Love. Mercy. Compassion. Inclusion. Forgiveness. Service. Opportunity. Grace. Even though Jesus spent time in a house of worship, most of his greatest stories of these ideals were practiced in public. No club membership necessary. No ticket needs to be purchased. No political favor exchanged. Social status does not give you a preferred place at the table.

The church doesn't always practice their ideals, but these stories do guide the church and its work during worship, service, and friendship. Most of all, beyond what the church communicates to you, know that the story of God in Jesus Christ wants you to know that all of the good things mentioned above (most of all--unconditional love) are for you.


  1. I want to connect with your church....thank you!

    1. Hi David! Thanks for reaching out. Send me an email at jbwsmith at hotmail dot com and we can connect.

  2. Joe,
    Good stuff! May I please post this on our Synod FB page and/or Synod newsletter? Thank you.

  3. Joe,
    Good stuff! May I please post this on our Synod FB page and/or Synod newsletter? Thank you.