Fernwood Baptist Church celebrated 50 years of ministry in Spartanburg, S.C., on Sunday. It was my pleasure to share in that grand occasion.

I joked with them about moving my membership there since “apparently churches in this area welcome non-resident members.” Most seemed to get and enjoy the reference to famed evangelist Billy Graham of Montreat, N.C., recently joining the First Baptist Church of Spartanburg — just down the road from Fernwood.

My blogging partner, Dr. Tony Cartledge, made a good case for membership and involvement in a local congregation in a recent blog.

His blog and the larger conversation about Graham’s church membership — which had been at First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, for decades — reminded me of a story.

Several years ago, I sat in on a conversation former President Jimmy Carter had with students at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Church involvement somehow came up in the conversation.

President Carter told how he was in Atlanta shortly after being elected governor of Georgia and paid a visit to a woman from Plains who was hospitalized there. It was part of his duties as a deacon at Plains Baptist Church (where he and Mrs. Carter were members before Maranatha Baptist Church was formed).

The woman asked President Carter what church they planned to join in Atlanta after their move. He told her they planned to keep their membership in Plains.

“When you move your refrigerator, you’re supposed to move your church membership,” the woman said in a matter-of-fact manner.

I doubt President and Mrs. Carter literally moved a refrigerator to the Governor’s Mansion. But he said they did heed her advice.

They found the closest Baptist congregation — Northside Drive Baptist Church — and joined. He became a Sunday school teacher.

Later, after winning the White House, the Carters joined the First Baptist Church in the City of Washington where he again taught Sunday school.

His perspective on local church membership came from a fellow church member from Plains who connected faithfulness with Frigidaire.

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