May 7, 2013

What does it mean to be a Member of the Church?

In his new book, I am a Church Member, Thom Rainer tackles the tough question of what it means to be a church member. He does this is in a surprisingly short book by building the book around 6 pledges that we should make as church members. Each chapter explains one of the pledges and ends with a formal pledge with a line to sign and date. The pledge is followed by questions for study.

The pledges are:

1. I will be a functioning church member.
2. I will be a unifying church member.
3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.
4. I will pray for my church leaders.
5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
6. I will treasure church membership as a gift.

I believe for many there will be problems getting past the title of the book. Some view church membership as an outdated idea or have seen how it has been poorly practiced and they have rejected the idea of church membership. If you can get past the title, however, you will find that Rainer has done a fantastic job of trying to rescue the idea of church membership and show the Biblical basis and practices of church membership. The first three pledges really drive home the point of Rainer's book and reveal what many people have let church membership become.

The problem with membership is that many have let it become something more like a country club membership. In this view, membership asks what we can get out of it instead of how do we function as a member. Rainer describes it this way, "For them membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices. This wrongful view of membership sees the tithes and offerings as membership dues that entitle members to never-ending list of privileges and expectations, instead of an unconditional cheerful gift to God." Instead, he proposes that membership is about being a member of the body of Christ. A member that functions according to his or her place in the body and does so willingly. Much like we expect the parts of our human body to function, Christ expects the members of his church to function.

With this in mind, the pledges are fairly straightforward. Church members will actively participate in the body of Christ. They will work to create unity in the body. They will not put their preferences and desires above other. They pray for their leaders. They love their friends and family and help them to love the church too. Finally, they treasure their membership in the body of Christ and are grateful for the gift God has given them.

Reading this book, I wasn't sure what to expect because of the topic. I have read Rainer before, and loved his work. This one turned out to be no exception. He writes simply and succinctly about what a Biblical church member looks like. I found first few pledges convicting. As a younger person, I want to point the finger at the older generations saying that they have warped church membership. My generation, however, has been found to be highly narcissistic, so I know we're to blame as well. I found the last few to be uplifting and encouraging. I especially appreciated that Rainer argues that families should be worshipping together on a regular basis (something near and dear to my wife, it was the topic of her Master's project).

I would certainly recommend that you read this book if you are a member of a church. It's less than 100 pages and is built for studying with a group. If you're opposed to church membership, you should read this book and interact with what Rainer has to say. When you get down to it, it's hard to argue against someone who encourages Christians to be active in their church, united with each other, humble about their preferences, praying for their leaders, caring for their family, and thankful to God for the opportunity to serve in His church.

Read an excerpt here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from B&H Publishing Group through netgalley.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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