I’ve been a church member ever since I made a profession of faith and was baptized at First Baptist Church of Winchester, Kentucky as a freshman in high school in the early 1970s. Growing up in the church prior to that experience and being an active church member in several churches since then, being a church member is a way of life for me. Still, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen in black and white the simple, biblical, straightforward discussion of what it means to be a church member that I just read in Thom Rainer‘s newest book, I Am a Church Member. In under 100 pages, Rainer makes a sound case for letting go of the self-serving, consumer-oriented, entitled mentality that some bring to membership (similar, for example, to country club membership), and for, instead, demonstrating a more biblical attitude and practice.
The book’s introduction presents the two contrasting attitudes to church membership, followed by brief chapters whose titles give accurate previews of what you’ll find:
- I Will Be a Functioning Church Member
- I Will Be a Unifying Church Member
- I Will Not Let My Church Be About My Preferences and Desires
- I Will Pray for My Church Leaders
- I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members
- I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift
Each of the chapters above ends with a specific pledge pertinent to the topic at hand.
This is not a book just for those new to the church. While it would be a fantastic book to give each new member in the context of a new member class, it is certain that long-time members need to read and be reminded of these truths as well. I certainly found a few places where the message brought to mind experiences in my past were I have failed to be the kind of church member Rainer describes as helpful and of sound, Christ-like attitude. That is a hard but necessary reminder for us all.
I can see this book being used in many helpful ways, from the new member classes just mentioned, to the basis of a sermon series, used in a church-wide book study, used by small groups to grow in their understanding and faithful service, and by individuals interested in serving others more than they are served. I can envision the six pledges that end the chapters hanging on church walls as constant reminders. In my church which is without a pastor at the moment, I can see us using this book as the basis for a study while we are in the process of searching for a pastor so that we are in a good place with servant hearts and Christ-like attitudes for that time when a new pastor comes to lead us.
As Rainer points out, the New Testament use of the word “member” isn’t the same as our culture typically means. In 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, the Apostle Paul wrote to a church divided, “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church.” Membership for the Christian is in the body of Christ – the church – which Christ loved and gave himself for. We are there to serve, not to be served, and to focus on giving, not receiving.
Whether you are a church member or not, whether you have been a member for a few months or many decades, you will benefit from this clear articulation of what it means to be a biblical church member. I believe God will use this simple, short book to change the attitudes of many, and in doing so to help make His church more of what He is calling her to be.