In his book, I Am A Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference, Thom S. Rainer builds a biblical argument to explain the weakening of the church across America. He claims that congregations “are weak because many of us church members have lost the biblical understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.” (p. 5).
The book, under 80 pages, is a quick read, but that doesn’t mean you’ll “get off the hook easy.” I was convicted by information the author shared in each of the book’s 6 chapters:
- 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
When I read this book as part of the bi-yearly training for small group leaders in the Women’s Ministry at my church, it deepened and broadened the way I see membership in my local church body.
Rainer writes, “One of the ongoing questions you should ask yourself and God in prayer is: ‘How can I best serve my church?'” (p. 16).
How often do we ask God to search our hearts and show us where and how we could serve our church? Many of us who join churches are looking for what we can get out of our membership. We visit different churches and ask ourselves questions such as, who plays the music I want to hear? Who has childcare during the service? Will this church let me teach a class? Do I like what the pastor says in his sermons?
What I learned in I Am A Church Member is that this mindset is the opposite of biblical church membership. If I join a church and focus only on my preferences and desires, I’m missing the point and ultimately weakening the body. Rainer wrote “…the strange thing about church membership is that you actually give up your preferences when you join…you are there to meet the needs of others. You are there to serve others. You are there to give. You are there to sacrifice.” (p. 34).
This doesn’t sound like popular opinion.
To support the stance he takes on church membership, the author offers scripture from the Old and New Testaments. From the research I did into the verses, his points are biblically sound. If more church members adopted the attitude he proposes, a revival would break out across our country (and that’s exactly what he prays will happen as a result of people reading this book).
In Chapter 4 “I Will Pray for my Church Leaders,” the Lord continually pricked my heart. Rainer explained the pressures leadership faces, particularly the pastor, and I wasn’t fully aware of the ways the enemy will try to attack the pastor of a church. Clearly, it is up to the church members to intercede in prayer for their pastor.
At the end of each chapter there’s a pledge to sign based on the specific information covered in that chapter as well as a few open-ended “Questions for Study.” That’s why the book lends itself so well to small group study. As mentioned, our small group leaders in women’s ministry used it as training and development. Some of our men’s small groups are using it as their study this spring session, and many of our frequent visitors, potential members, and new members are encouraged to read it as they consider joining with the local body at Calvary or as they become members there. A few of the teens in our youth group have even chosen to lead a youth meeting on a Wednesday night and share what they’re learning from reading the book.
I recommend this book if you’re interested in learning and applying biblical truths about the meaning of church membership. I imagine your attitude will change, like mine did, once you’ve taken the time to read Rainer’s book. Because of the short length, you could probably read it in an hour or less. It won’t break the bank either; at publication date, it was on Rainer’s site for $5.99+tax. (I also saw it on Amazon for less than $12).
Go ahead. Check it out, and get some new ides about serving Christ in the local body of His church.