Jesus slipped into the church and sat in the last pew. The pastor’s sermon described how Jesus simply said to his disciples, “Come,” and they gave up their jobs and daily routines to follow him and experience a life of serving others.
After the worship service, Jesus went to the pastor and expressed interest in becoming a member of the congregation.
“Have you been baptized?” the pastor asked.
“Yes,” Jesus said.
“Good,” the pastor said. “Do you have proof of your baptism?”
“Not actually,” Jesus said. “Can you trust me and accept my word?”
“Sorry,” said the pastor. “Our church bylaws say we have to have proof. Do you by chance have a letter of transfer from another church?”
“I have no letter of transfer,” Jesus said. “I don’t even know what it is. Can’t I just declare that I want to enjoy fellowship with this group and be accepted?”
“No, not according to our bylaws,” the pastor said. “Sorry.”
“Do you ever make exceptions?” Jesus asked.”
“Not even if you were the good Lord himself,” the pastor said. “If we did it for one, we’d have to do it for everyone.”
“So, where do I start?” Jesus asked.
“Well, first you’ll need to fill out a form requesting membership,” the pastor said. “Then you’ll be assigned to a class on membership.”
“What is involved in a membership class?” Jesus asked.
“Well, lots of things,” the pastor said. “You’ll learn all about who we are as a church, what our vision is, what our particular beliefs are. Basically you need to know in order to become a member with us.”
“I’ve studied the Scriptures,” Jesus said. “I believe I have a good understanding of what the church is all about and what the basic beliefs are. Isn’t that good enough?”
“That’s just what’s in the Scriptures,” the pastor said. “I’m talking about what our church believes. What’s in our covenants and bylaws, important stuff like that.”
“So if you and I were traveling in a car together discussing the Scriptures and I said I wanted to obey the Scriptures and be baptized, and there was a river nearby, what would you do?” Jesus asked.
“You don’t seem to be grasping what I’m saying,” the pastor said. “I would probably take you to the river and baptize you. But don’t you see, you still would have to go through our membership class. We can’t just blindly accept anyone who comes in the door. What kind of church would we be if we did that? You have to be confirmed.”
“When do these membership classes take place?” Jesus asked.
“It depends,” the pastor said. “We try to have regular classes scheduled at least several times a year. Sometimes we wait until Lent.”
“What’s Lent?” Jesus asked. “I’m familiar with the Scriptures, but I never heard of Lent.”
“Well then, my friend, you don’t know your church history,” the pastor said. “Lent is when our church members fast and pray for forty days before Easter as a way of remembering our Lord and his suffering. It’s a serious time of sacrifice, like giving up candy bars or coffee for forty whole days. Stuff like that.”
“Isn’t that something your members do throughout the year?” Jesus asked.
“Of course they do,” the pastor said. “Lent is just something church leaders came up with to make it an extra special time. Listen, you’re asking a lot of questions. Do you want to become a member or not?”
“I think you’ve convinced me,” Jesus said.
“Good,” the pastor said. “Now, if you just fill out the request for membership card, we can get you started.
“No,” Jesus said. “I think you convinced me that I might not fit in here. I’ve spent my life opposing man-made rules and laws and steps I’m required to follow in order to be viewed as acceptable and spiritual, requirements that go above and beyond what the Scriptures say. I prefer to not return to that kind of worship. Thank you for your time, though. Oh, and by the way, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Jesus. Have a good day.”