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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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What is membership?

The question before us is: What is membership? What’s the difference between purchasing a membership at Costco or being given one through baptism? Which do you value more?

Silly, sure. Yet we believe there are many church members who do put higher value on their store memberships—measure that by society’s standards of presence and the distribution of resources. Some members go to Costco far more often than they attend church. Some pay more for their annual Costco membership card than they contribute to the general fund of their congregation.

Interestingly, Costco requires commitment every year: Do you want to renew your membership? It doesn’t transfer to children and grandchildren, even if they want to shop only for weddings and funerals.

Consider these differences in what you get or give:

Costco: You’re greeted with a glance at your membership card and handed a cart—to fill up.
Church: You’re greeted with a warm welcome and handed a bulletin to guide you in your time with God, the creator of all things.

Costco: You’re given coupons to save you money—and to encourage you to spend more money.
Church: You’re given empty envelopes—so you can support the roof-repair fund, the youth trip and offer thanks for life and light.

Costco: New products for every season await you. You can buy in bulk and stock up on your favorite foods. No one notices if, and when, you come back.
Church: The gift is the same today, tomorrow and yesterday. God’s love is ever-present and constant. God does care when you come to worship and when you stay away.

Costco: Your kids love to go shopping. They learn the joys of being consumers.
Church: Your kids might balk about getting up and ready to go to Sunday school or church. They learn the joy of being loved by Jesus and living in grace.

Costco membership—what a deal!
Church membership—what an opportunity!

This week's front page features:

Facing suicide head on: Work still needed in treating disease. (Photo at right.)

Loving God and loving neighbor: How do we live out our faith?

Pedestrian crossing: A prayer for a walk of faith.

The pie lady: Baker rolls out crust for parking-lot cash.

Also: Living with treatment-resistant depression.

Also: Involvement therapy helps couple deal with daughter's suicide.

Also: Meeting real needs.

Read these articles at our front page > > >

Discuss preventing suicide:

Discuss suicide's impact on families and suicide prevention with Jerry and Elsie Weyrauch (right).

The Weyrauchs said their congregation, Resurrection Lutheran, Marietta, Ga., supported them after the 1987 suicide of their oldest daughter, Terri Ann, a 34-year-old physician who suffered from major depression.

“We heard how other suicide survivors were condemned, ostracized and were made to feel guilty,” Elsie said. “The most helpful thing for us was when our pastor came to our house and said nothing and cried with us.”

The conversation starts today and continues through July 24.

Consider reading "Facing suicide head on," "Involvement therapy helps couple deal with daughter’s suicide," "Living with treatment-resistant depression" and "On the suicide hot line" before joining in.

Join the conversation > > >

This week on our blog:

Andrea Pohlmann wonders if the truth can set people free from speeding tickets.

Amber Leberman asks: Are Christians well-portrayed in movies and television?

Julie Sevig (right) writes about a Chicago media scandal.

Sonia Solmonson blogs about freedom.

Check out our blog > > >

Subscribe to The Little Lutheran:

We at The Lutheran think it’s important to nurture the faith of the little ones in our midst. We developed The Little Lutheran for toddlers age 6 and younger to help them learn about God’s love for them and the world in which they live. We want them to know Jesus as friend and savior too.

Subscribe now > > >

Share your evangelism tips:

Reader George C. Weirick challenged the staff of The Lutheran: "Tell us about programs that work or unusual or new evangelism methods."

Send us your tips via email with a brief description (two or three paragraphs). Include contact information for those wanting more background.

The staff reviews submissions and publishes the best as a regular item on the “Currents” pages.

Members: Respond online > > >

Subscribe to The Lutheran magazine:

Did you know: An individual subscription to The Lutheran magazine is only $15.95 a year and includes a Web Premium membership at no additional cost.

For only $15.95 you'll receive 12 issues of The Lutheran magazine in your mailbox. You'll also receive online access to back issues' articles since 1996 and unlimited study guide downloads (regularly $3.50 each) at www.thelutheran.org.

(Congregational subscriptions begin at $7.95 and include Web Standard memberships. Call Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, for details about our congregational plans; 800-328-4648.)




This is an Associated Church Press award-winning e-newsletter.


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