Church membership is often approached similar to a country club membership. We join a church to see what we can get out of it. The pastor is to feed us through his sermons. The music is to fit our style. Programs and ministries are for our benefit. Deviations are not acceptable. We determine what we like and don’t like and are members who expect perks, privileges, and service. Not only is this description unbiblical, it is harmful and crippling to the local church.
In his 75 page book I Am a Church Member, Dr. Thom Rainer addresses his hypothesis that “congregations across America are weak because many of us church members have lost the biblical understanding of what it means to be part of the body of Christ” (p. 5). As an Elder in the local church, I consider this book essential reading for all members and prospective members. It should be discussed in small groups, Bible studies, Sunday school classes, and new member classes. The chapter titles succinctly identify the core attitudes of biblical church membership:
- Chapter 1: I will be a functioning church member
- Chapter 2: I will be a unifying church member
- Chapter 3: I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires
- Chapter 4: I will pray for my church leaders
- Chapter 5: I will lead my family to be healthy church members
- Chapter 6: I will treasure church membership as a gift
The "love" chapter in 1 Corinthians (13:4-7) is usually included in weddings as a charge to a bride and groom. Yet, within the proper context- the verses are directed toward the local church and how members are to relate to one another. Rainer stated, “if we could just abide by the principles of the love chapter, we would have completely healthy churches. It would be a revolution! The principles of these verses are sufficient to cause a revival in most churches!” (p. 13-14). I couldn’t agree more.
Imagine the difference in our local churches if members took the following pledge contained within the book:
- I am a church member. I will seek to be a source of unity in the church. I know that there are no perfect pastors, staff, or other local church members. But neither am I. I will not be a source of gossip or dissension. One of the greatest contributions I can make is to do all I can in God’s power to help keep the church in unity for the sake of the gospel.
- I am a church member. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires. That is self-serving. I am in this church to serve others and to serve Christ. My Savior went to a cross for me. I can deal with any inconveniences and matters that are just not my preference or style.
- I am a church member. I will pray for my pastor every day. His work is never-ending. His days are filled with constant demands for his time- with the need to prepare sermons, with those who are rejoicing in births, with those who are traveling through the valley of the shadow of death, with critics, with the hurts and hopes of others, and with the need to be a husband and father. My pastor cannot serve our church in his own power. I will pray for God’s strength for him and his family every day.
- I am a church member. I will lead my family to be good members of this church as well. We will pray together for our church. We will worship together in our church. We will serve together in our church. And we will ask Christ to help us fall deeper in love with this church, because He gave His life for her.
- I am a church member. This membership is a gift. When I received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I became a part of the body of Christ. I soon thereafter identified with a local body and was baptized. And now I am humbled and honored to serve and to love others in our church. I pray that I will never take my membership for granted, but see it as a gift and an opportunity to serve others and to be part of something much greater than any one person or member.
I am a church member. And I thank God that I am.