Hello Church Family,

Even though we have been living here for three months, with the purchase of a house and the switching of our driver’s licenses, we are now officially residents of state of Oklahoma. As we were going through the process of getting everything transferred over, I found myself thinking about why states require people to have identification based on where they live.

This is the United States of America. If we are so united, why should I have to update my information? Shouldn’t residency in one state suffice for them all?

No one asked me if I wanted to switch residency. No one suggested that by moving from Tennessee to Oklahoma that I had a problem with the state of Tennessee. No one inquired as to whether I really felt like a resident of Oklahoma. The law remained unchanged: permanent residents have up to thirty days to apply for residency in the state in which they currently live. And, once we were able to, we happily complied.

So then, the question still remains: Why? I imagine this isn’t really a burning question of yours that has kept you up at night, but bear with me. States require permanent residents to update their residency based on where they physically live for accountability. They want to know how many people are living where. They want to be aware of who is affected by their decisions. They want their residents to pay state taxes, recognize state laws, and contribute to the well-being of the state. Now for all of you government cynics out there, just be an idealist for the rest of this newsletter.

I bring this up in order that we, as a church, might learn a few things from the state’s governmental policies. Even though as Christians we are ultimately a part of the one body of Christ (i.e., the universal or catholic church), we are still called to take up residency by joining a local church. I mean more than just having our names on a church roll—that is not the kind of “membership” to which the New Testament calls us. Rather, we are meant to identify ourselves with a specific church for the purpose of knowing the other members and being known by them in order that we might grow, strengthen, encourage, guard, and correct one another in Christ for God’s glory. Being members of the universal church does not change our need of being members of the local church in which we are called to live out the Bible’s commands and principles together.

Local church membership is a blessing given to us as Christians by God for our good, as well as the good of others. Uniting with another local church does not mean that we dislike the one from which we came. Uniting with another local church does not mean that our move was care or pain-free. Uniting with another local church does not mean that we are no longer linked to the church from which we came in some ways.

It does mean that we recognize the need for physical, tangible connection with another local church that will put us in a position to obey God’s Word in our lives. It does mean that we are specifically identifying with a group of people and pledging to come under their authority and be accountable to them. In doing so, God will use our commitment to each other through our local church for our good and His glory. I thank God He has brought Allison and me to unite with you all and live out His gracious plan for our lives together. We love you and we are excited about our future in this local church.