aBest-selling author Thom S. Rainer ("Simple Church") shows how being an effective church member has more to do with maintaining a healthy biblical attitude than it does worrying over functional issues."
Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers and Executive Director of Revitalize Network. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama where he received his degree in business administration. He received both the master of divinity and the Ph.D. degrees from Southern Seminary.
Dr. Rainer has served as pastor of four churches. He is the former president of Rainer Group consulting. He served for twelve years as dean at Southern Seminary and for thirteen years as the president and CEO of LifeWay Çhristian Resources.
Dr. Rainer has authored or co-authored 33 books. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and eleven grandchildren.
Though the information in this book isn't wrong, per se, it's incomplete and unbalanced.
Rainer says: "You are [in your local church] to meet the needs of others. You are there to serve others. You are there to give. You are there to sacrifice. Get the picture?" (p 34)
While at first glance that might sound biblical, the Bible, in fact, uses one-another terminology to describe what we "should" be doing in the Church body. "Love one another, forgive one another, serve one another..." As in, our church should be a place where we love and are loved, serve and are served, give and receive. Rainer's "do more, more, more" attitude will lead many members (who are already serving at capacity) to burnout.
There was also an undue emphasis on how hard pastors or those in leadership positions work and all of the ways we lowly parishioners make life even harder on them. The point Rainer was trying to make is that they need prayer. True - the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders. But again, it also tells all Christians to pray for one another.
Chapter 4 details the true story of a pastor who's overwhelmed with the "needs" of his congregation, and while reading it, I couldn't overlook the fact that the pastor in this account had very poor boundaries. A pastor should not be neglecting his nuclear family to attend to the needs of the church family - if he is, that's a sign that he is trying to do too much. In my experience, it's because the pastor has taken on the role of savior instead of leading people to our true Savior, Jesus Christ. If you set yourself up with poor boundaries and tell everyone that they need you to save them, of course some undiscerning members will believe you and become too needy at some point. Pastors should be setting and enforcing healthy boundaries for themselves, modeling what those look like, as well as teaching those boundaries outright, to church members. Not only will it ease the burden on everyone serving in the church, but it will help to reinforce the truth that pastors and other leaders are finite human beings, just like the rest of us. They are not extra-special-holy and extra-special-capable. (I highly recommend all church members - laypeople and leaders alike - read Boundaries.)
Chapter 5 is titled, "I will lead my family to be healthy church members" - so, obviously, this focuses on marriage and parenting. As an apparent afterthought, Rainer says, "Many church members are single. They have no immediate family with whom they can worship in the church. Regardless, there are still people watching them and how they love the church. They are to be an example to others." (Gee, really? How insightful!) Considering 50% of American Christians are single, it's frustrating that we're still disclaimers in books that are about the Church, the eternal family of God that will continue on even as the nuclear family ends with Christ's return.
Overall, I feel like this book is far too short and superficial to fully address some of the issues that it brings up. Incomplete truths can be dangerous.
I think this would be best read in a small group or Sunday School or new member's class, where time can be allocated to discuss the issues more in-depth and fill in some of the glaring holes this book leaves.
I recommend a lot of books, but I believe this book needs to become required reading in “new membership” classes or meetings. This small hardback book has six chapters which cover what a church member’s responsibilities are to their church. I have been a church member all my life, I became a Christian and was baptized in 3rd grade, but even though I grew up knowing all these responsibilities it was eye opening and refreshing to read this short book by Rainer. Rainer is someone who, when he speaks I usually perk up and listen.
The first story titled “The Tale of Two Church Members” hit close to home because I have seen people leave because they accuse church members of hypocrisy but fail to see their own hypocrisies. Often members join expecting others to serve them, to feed them and to care for them, but God designed church to be a place “to serve, to care for others, to pray for our leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.” (Rainer, pg 6)
This book is only $5 and I believe it is a must read for all who are a church member.
This is a tale of three books, and which book you read is all a matter of perspective.
Perspective #1: This perspective is illustrated by the 7 full pages of quotes from "professional" ministers recommending the book. These people work in the church all the time, and see the limitations and deficiencies of its membership clearly. They find this book encouraging and approachable because it is short, to the point, and adherence to it's principles by all members would make their job of leading much easier. They think this book is 5 stars.
Perspective #2: This perspective is embodied by many in evangelicalism who have not had a formal membership class or training. For them, this is new information. They agree with the Biblical teaching and are motivated to attempt to follow it. I would guess the average here is 3 stars.
Perspective #3: This perspective is held by the seasoned Christian, who has been around the church for a long time. This person has had many opportunities to leave the church entirely and may have been through messy church change. Maybe a little cynical, maybe a little jaded, maybe burned by a church and/or leader before, maybe disgusted with the growing culture of celebrity in the pastorate, maybe just discouraged. This person reads the list and sees all the ways they cannot possibly fulfill the desires of the professionals to be as faithful, as involved, as unified, as committed as the flawless church members envisioned herein. While good teaching is helpful, this person just hears a clanging gong or noisy cymbal. This is the 1 to 2 star review.
If you recommend this book to others, it would be wise to consider the audience.
An Excellent Resource I read I Am a Church Member after I read another of Dr. Rainer's books, High Expectations. In many ways, this book is a companion piece to that work. High Expectations speaks of a church leader communicating commitment to church membership. I Am A Church Member spells out what it means to make that commitment from the members point of view and comes with a pledge at the end of each chapter. The pledges are I will: (1) be a functioning church member; (2) be a unifying church member; (3) not let my church be about my preferences and desires; (4) pray for my church leaders; (5) lead my family to be healthy church members; and (6) treasure church membership as a gift. It is suggested that I Am a Church Member be given out to congregations and pastors should preach a six-week sermon series using the Biblical basis from each chapter as a guide. The book is an excellent resource to help set the expectations for church members.
This book is typical, legalistic church doctrine, telling the parishioner in order to be a "good Christian" you need to give the church you attend total control of your life. The Biblical references are weak, oftentimes taking one passage out of context to prove the author's points. The points on how to get along are good, no gossip, no complaining, forgiveness etc, but the rest of the book works on shaming the Christian into believing that your loyalty, money and time all belong to your church at the expense of all else. The last time I checked, my loyalty, money and time all belong to the Lord, my Creator and my Savior. It is designed to use as a study, complete with contracts after every chapter for you to sign promising to be a better church member, much like a cult forces you to sign your life away. If your church uses this book, find another church.
A simple read jam-packed with some practical, powerful + sweet reminders! As Christ as the bridegroom and the church as the bride, I love how Rainer illustrates how to love the bride well, with unwavering and unconditional love.
A small primer on church membership, geared towards opening the eyes of those that view the church as another institution in place to gratify the hearers. While this book has the right intent to wake the congregation out of complacency, I personally felt that it missed the mark for where I find myself. There is a strong and rightful emphasis on service, but I wished the book had a little more balance on the fact that we should still expect to be blessed by the church (not necessarily the pastor). My own bias is that I come from a church with a strong emphasis on service, to the point of everyone reaching burnout because they haven't taken time to rest and be served. While I understand that that environment is probably the exception, I felt like the book could lead someone towards a legalistic mindset. While we can't attain happiness if we are pursuing it directly, God doesn't want us to be miserable either.
This small booklet is the most relevant title for churches I've read so far this year. I read it a couple of years ago, and read it again today. It's a very quick read (took me about 20 minutes), and is full of pertinent, Biblical truth for all church members. Every church would be much stronger if all members read it, then signed the pledge. It has the potential to change the course not only of lives, but of congregations. It's one of Dr. Rainer's best.
Why is it that, if a “Christian” book about divisions in the church has made it the long road from writer’s desk to printing press—through that vicious gauntlet of submissions editors, corporate fad surfers, and sales projection analysts who keep so many manuscripts from ever making it to the printing press (unless the writers publish independently)—the book is going to be one to favor the pastor and put blame for a church’s problems on rebellious or apathetic members within the body? Why is it always the members at fault? Why can’t it be that the pastors might just be causing the problem by following the same tired model for a “super-mega-church” as sold to them from every book that seems to come out of the mainstream Christian publishing industry? (You know that kind of book I’m talking about—the ones written to the leadership of the church—the ones that offer the latest fad for how pastors should “grow” their churches and handle “rebellion” and division amongst its members.) Those books seem to go hand in hand with these kinds of books—the ones one shelf over in the Christian bookstore—that tell members that we are not trying hard enough, tithing hard enough, volunteering hard enough, and sacrificing hard enough (so that the pastor can drive a nicer car and live in a bigger house than us). The Christian bookstore seems to be full of them. Why is that?
Could it possibly be that the pastors (and book publishers) have no clue? Could it be that the pastors writing these kinds of books have no idea how far they themselves have strayed from the idea Jesus had in mind when he built his church? These pastor-turned-authors just assume that we, the members, aren’t “trying hard enough”. Never mind that we gave them our Saturdays for years and years in order to help decorate the sanctuary for Sunday morning’s sermons and to take care of the needs of the widows and orphans who needed their leaves raked and their windows resealed. Never mind that we ignored our own families because we believed in the importance of the “church”. Never mind if the youth group saw a rash of teenage pregnancies, drug use, and rebellion because their parents were too busy evangelizing the sinners and growing the church to notice that the “village” wasn’t doing a very good job of raising the children.
I must confess. I did not get all the way through this book. I don’t need to get any angrier. I got as far as the part where the author told us that we’re not supposed to “gossip” because it destroys churches. No, what destroys churches is when the leadership takes off in a non-biblical direction and when you confront them (as the author of this book suggested) they ignore you and then command you to not “gossip” about them to others in the church when it comes to discussing your disagreement and confrontation.
I’m going to just come out and say it, pastors. You don’t get it. We’re not interchangeable cogs in your machine. We do not exist to volunteer for you, to be placed wherever you need us at a moment’s notice. We’re families. Long before Peter and Paul formed the church, long before Moses formed the nation of Israel, God formed the family. Don’t try to tear us apart so you can use the parts you want and discard the rest. That is what the wolf does to the lamb, not the pastor to his flock.
And publishers, you don’t get it either, do you? These books may sell well, and they may keep your business in the black because of all the pastors pushing them onto their congregations, but if you are not printing and distributing the Word that God wants to speak to His children, you are not useful to Him. He is going to prosper such secular businesses as Amazon.com and Smashwords.com, much as He prospered Babylon and Persia to the Israelites’ dismay, because they are the ones doing His work. In the end, if you keep publishing this kind of tripe and encouraging pastors to market them from the pulpits, both of you will become a problem that God will sooner or later have to remove.
For the sake of those members now in your youth groups and children’s ministries, I pray for sooner. (But no, I don’t think it will have anything to do with four blood moons.)
My mentor selected this book for me to read and discuss later as this was one of our churches' recommended resources.
The main idea of I Am a Church Member is to encourage believers to become committed members of a local church and serve that church.
The enemy: The author seeks to refute "country club church" mentality that many Christians take when attending a church.
Here is a list of commitments(& chapter titles) that Rainer proposes in the book and my take on them:
I will be a functioning church member Basic chapter on how the church is body comprised of many different parts. Simple stuff, but many people do not get this!
I will be a unifying church member: Why gossip is bad, dissension in the ranks, and the importance of conflict resolution.
I will not let the church be about my preferences and desires: Very good chapter if your congregation in comprised of whining Israelites that have been in the desert for forty years. However, this statement presupposes that your preferences and desires are not aligned with the Bible. So practical application is to develop preferences and desires that are biblically justified. Easy to say, hard to do at times.
I will pray for my church leaders: This chapter addresses the physical/emotional/spiritual burdens and pressures that are carried by church leaders. In guy talk this chapter translates to "take of your gear and your gear will take care of you."
I will lead my family to be healthy church members: This chapter addresses the importance of including the family in the church process. The family provides an excellent platform for disciples and the training of future leaders. You can never go wrong with integrating the family into more areas of the church. The are some slight semantic issues that author gets into as he uses the analogy of Church being the bride of Christ; this is not the book to use a main resource for discussing the implications of this theologically concept.
I will treasure church membership as a gift: If you have had a bad church experiences this chapter is going to be hard to relate to. I enjoy being a part of the church and most of my church experiences have been valuable although there have been the occasional "some assembly required" moments.
Some of the reviews on Amazon articulated that this book seems to be a blank check for leaders to lead without oversight and that church members need to blindly follow. I believe that this book is only an extension of above referenced blog post and merely seeks to kick the church into gear.
This is the first book by Thom Rainer that I have read. In what I have discovered about him in general, but as a result of following his blog in particular, I have developed quite a bit of respect for him. His latest did not disappoint.
Published on April 14, 2013, I Am A Church Member is available in Kindle e-book or hardcover versions and it is just under 100 pages long. I read the book in Kindle form in less than 2 hours. It is easy to read, digest and sensitively but unashamedly addresses issues like gossip, a "what's in it for me" mindset, worship wars and more.
Rainer asks the reader to consider what he believes is a biblical attitude of church membership and how that differs from the culture's definition of membership. Unlike other books of this type, Rainer doesn't ignore Scripture but brings them forth alongside research and experience to offer a compelling description of what a church member is and should be and the difference that would make in our churches and thus in the culture as a whole. The pledges he ends each chapter with and includes in the back are a great reminder of what has been learned so that the reader can put them into action. In addition, each chapter ends with questions pertinent to that chapter's content.
With enthusiasm, I recommend I Am A Church Member. Useful for personal enrichment as well as a group Bible study or even as a resource for a pastor in discussing these important issues with the board or a small group or church setting, I am sure that if you purchase it, it will not go to waste. It is a must read for every church member.
This is a short book. This may be a little off putting to some folks as to whether or not they should purchase it. It is also a simple read. This may also be a deterrent.
Simply put though...Read this book!
Yes, it short, yes it is simple, but immediately after reading this book, I said to myself, "I want everyone in my congregation to read this book!" I am thinking of placing his steps for congregational healthiness at the forefront of our next council meeting. They are easy and simple guidelines to be a member in a congregation. That is what the whole book is. A small intro and then right into the principles that Rainer wants to discuss. Simple things like I will pray for the pastor. Very simple, but easily forgettable by many members.
I am trying not to spoil his principles by giving them all away, but this book is worth the read. It is worth sharing with others. This would make a great discussion in congregations. It will make people change the way they think about membership plain and simple.
GREAT book for church members and leaders alike! I think anyone who is a participating member of a church should read this. It is humbling but encouraging as well. In a "me-centered" culture, it is easy to carry that mindset into the church, where Thom Rainer says we act as though the church is a country club serving US. Biblically speaking, being a member of the church is being a member of the BODY of Christ--each member does its part. I hope to do mine in whatever church God allows me to be a member of.
Here are the pledges outlined in the book:
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. (This is a big one!) I will pray for my church leaders. (Because they need it the most!) I will lead my family to be healthy church members. I will treasure church membership as a gift.
PLUS, this book is a quick read at only 79 pages, but packed full of practical and biblical truth. Great book.
A helpful - and short! - reminder of what church membership really involves. It only took me about an hour to read, but it contained so much truth about the individual's responsibility to care for others with their local church. Even as a lifelong church member, there were some aspects I'd never really considered - like chapter 5's exhortation to lead your family to healthy church membership - and found other chapters a useful and timely reminder of my responsibilities to pray for the church leadership, and faithfully and determinedly reach out to other attenders.
My pastor recommended this to all regular attendees (whether or not they are official "members" of our church) and I would definitely echo that suggestion!
La premisa del libro es marcar la diferencia entre el significado común de la membresía y el concepto bíblico de ser miembros de la Iglesia. La Biblia enseña que cada hijo de Dios debe ser un órgano eficaz. Ser miembro no es «pertenecer a un club»: es conformar un cuerpo. Un cuerpo vivo, que funciona y sirve a la cabeza. Si has nacido de nuevo, el llamado es para ti.
I state this with every Christian non-fiction read, but they all read the same. Strip the author away and you have someone influenced by the same determined language and definitive exclamation as the Puritans. Often, the Christian non-fiction literature of our day is more attune with a time long since past than the time they try to write for. The only times they often dip into the current time is to mention how one is "binging Netflix too long" or "spending too much time on the internet". In pursuit of efficient pastoring, all pastors who have "made it" turn out to be pastors of a single kind. Their abilities are of use only with a single people group. As the church becomes myopic, further and further off the baseline we see in Revelation 21 and 22 in which every tribe, tongue, and nation is worshipping the Lord. Only a specific kind of people will make it, or so writes the modern Christian author.
As for this book, it is a painful read. Perhaps this is not the worst of Christian non-fiction I've endured (certainly not when compared to Sexual Detox, a book where the male Christian author writes that a wife denying sex to her husband by any means implies there is marital drift), but it definitely ranks among the worst. A lot of Christian literature is written to imply pastors are to be pitied, that their work is so intensely arduous that they are to be supported in all their endeavors. Never do they posit that the pastor has poor boundaries, has made promises he could never keep, and is sourly embracing the life of a savior-complex. They never assume pride is at the helm of their church body. And thus, subsequent passages are layered with the word "should", pushing a reader to feel ashamed or guilty for not doing what they "should" have done.
For the Fruit of the Spirit there is no law. Why do so many authors seek to bring law into what is good? Goodness is inherently freeing. To bring "should" brings shame to what otherwise is goodness itself. Why should we be ashamed for not being the "goodest" among the good? Perhaps it is because, in a time and place when Christianity has married itself to capitalism, and capitalism is about competition, you, the reader, must be the "goodest" among the good of the membership. You "should" be this way, even if others will not be this way.
And the goal of such "shouldness" is not to make disciples (of which doing good by obligation is a sour way to plant seeds, and no doubt will poison the root of the convert when they learn of its source), but often to ease the pain of the pastor, or to increase the amount of "tithes" (I use quotations because modern tithing is far from Scriptural tithing. Scriptural tithing is more of a party, a celebration of what the Lord has given to you. A willing recognition of Him as the provider. Very different than what is now considered a glorified "holy subscription service"). And this book becomes so enamored with creating a baseline idea of what a member "should" do that it never creates leeway for when a member has a reasonable, responsible, and rational reason for making choices converse to what Thom S. Rainer is saying you "should" do.
There is a lot of fundamental issues with this book, and I've only hit a few issues here, and perhaps someday I may indulge to write more, but I'll finish with this: be wary of this book. Thom S. Rainer is not our pastor, and he does not know your situation. You may be doing just fine in your church and Satan will use the "shoulds" of this text - the conversion of goodness into law - to shame you for what you are already doing well. Or, perhaps the books "contracts" will guilt you into being a better person, shaming you into doing things you didn't need to do in the first place. Or, maybe it's misuse of scriptural passages, and literal interpretation of the word "member" during a metaphorical passage of scripture will simply send you down a confused spiral. It's not worth it, even at 79 pages.
But, perhaps, as I said in my review of Sexual Detox, if you were to read this book, read it with the knowledge that it, too, is written by a man who is flawed. Be gracious to the man himself for writing something that, I think, is more toxic than it is nourishing. But, be wary of the text itself. Read it mindfully and understand that it is not the Bible, Thom S. Rainer is not your pastor, and membership is not your core purpose as a Christian.
This book was given to anyone attending my church’s membership class. It wasn’t required reading but a few of the pledges were touched on briefly.
The book was alright, and I can see where it may be beneficial to give to new church members. The content was disappointing, though. In short, it was very surface level and had no references for supporting data. Even if everything in the book is correct, the writing didn’t sit all that well with me—and I pretty much agree with everything the writer said.
Maybe my expectation for the little book just wasn’t in line with what the author’s true goal was. If you want a quick read that is an absolute starting point for opening up dialogue on local church membership, this is probably okay. That said, I imagine there are probably better options out there.
5 Stars. - This is not a theological classic, but it should be read by every church member.
Rainer boils down the basic responsibility of a church member into a masterclass that is as powerful as it is short.
The book outlines some basic responsibility of functioning and serving as a part of a local church. This is an excellent first place to start for a new church member and challenging reminder to a long time church goer.
At 70 something pages, this wont take but a couple of short sittings to go through. Well worth your time.
We received a copy of this when we joined our new church. We were regular and active members of our previous church, so we are not new to the concept of church membership. Church membership is a 2-way relationship. Yes, the membership serves and ministers to us, but also we are to plug in, serve, and minister to others. There are some books worthy of reading to refresh or reset your perspective. This is one of those books. I was able to read the whole thing in an afernoon and it helped me reset my perspective on being an active member of our new church home.
This book does a great job of clearly defining what it looks like to honor the Lord through your church membership, would recommend to anyone who is currently a church member, anyone who is looking to become a church member for the first time, or anyone who may have moved and is switching his/her church membership. It's a great reminder of how we are called to serve the body of believers as members of the church!
I hesitate to say this should be required reading but I do think it is a book that one should give serious consideration to reading. It opens with A Tale Of Two Church Members and moves on to six steps to seriously and prayerfully consider with regards to what kind of member do you want to be in the church. I highly recommend it.
This was an encouraged read for individuals going through membership at our new church. It’s a super quick read that focuses on the attitudes that members should have concerning their membership in a local church. We should not view this membership like a country club membership, but as a an opportunity to make ourselves low like Christ made himself low in washing the disciples feet. We are members to serve as Christ served. I didn’t find anything new here, but it was a good heart check and reminder of what my membership in a local church entails.
Great little book that provides a strong intro to what is required of a biblical church member. Doesn't really include anything on church discipline, but other than this it is a great tool for any joining a church.
A Biblical church member is functional in that they give generously and eagerly serve.
Great little book! Perhaps surface-level, but none-the -less new and revolutionary for many congregants that have only known a consumeristic church experience. I will probably be using this for a group study in the near future.