Reviewed by Paula R. Kincaid
In his book, I am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference, author Thom S. Rainer states that based on his research of 557 churches from 2004-2010, “nine out of 10 churches in America are declining or growing at a pace that is slower than that of their communities. Simply stated, churches are losing ground in their own backyards.”
While Rainer gives a list of external reasons for the decline or lack of growth, he proposes that church members need to “look in the mirror. I am suggesting that congregations across America 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.”
In his book, Rainer states that God didn’t mean for churches to become country clubs, where members have “privileges and perks. He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give and in some cases to die for the sake of the Gospel.”
Rainer emphasizes being a “Biblical” church member.
“Biblical church membership gives without qualification. Biblical membership views tithes and offerings as joyous giving. There are no strings attached. Biblical church membership serves and ministers as a natural way of doing things,” he writes. “Biblical church membership is functioning membership.”
I am a Church Member outlines six “steps” that each church member should take “carefully and prayerfully. And at the end of each step, let us be willing to make a commitment, a real commitment to our church.” The six steps (chapters) are:
- 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 health church members.
- I will treasure church membership as a gift.
In his blog, Rainer writes that the book can be read in one or two hours, or it can be studied over several weeks. Each chapter includes questions for study and a pledge or commitment that church members can sign. He lists five ways that I am a Church Member can be used in the church:
- “New members’ class. There is no better time to set attitudinal expectations about church membership than on the front end.
- “Small group study. There are six chapters and an introduction in the book. With the study questions at the end of each chapter, it is perfectly suited for a multi-week study.
- “Gifts for guests. Two churches let me know that they will be giving every first-time guest one of these books. They told me that it helps to share the membership philosophy as soon as possible.
- “Leadership groups in the church. I am encouraged to hear about elders, deacons, church staff and others coming together to study the book. One pastor sent me a tweet that said his leadership group made a decision to scrap and reinstitute their membership process after studying the book.
- “All church members. I have been especially gratified to hear of churches that are providing the book to every church member. One pastor told me that if the book has an impact on just 10 percent of those who receive it, the church could see its greatest days ever. That statement was really encouraging.”
Rainer writes in the final chapter that membership in the church is a gift from God, “that we should treasure with great joy and anticipation … Church membership is a gift. We respond to gifts with gratitude. And one key way we express our gratitude is to serve like Jesus did and like He told us to do.”
Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served for 12 years at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.
By Thom S. Rainer
Publisher: B&H Books
Hardcover: 96 pages