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I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference Hardcover – May 1, 2013
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Senior Pastor, Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas
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While the topic of church membership in recent years has thankfully risen to the fore, and we’ve discussed it extensively from a biblical-theological framework on Servants of Grace, a new book by Dr. Thom Rainer, President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources has come out. Dr. Rainer’s book does not get into all the biblical arguments for church membership. In fact the book isn’t concerned much with explaining church membership at all but it is with explaining the attitudes that Christians should exhibit towards church membership. This is an important point to note. Dr. Rainer believes firmly in church membership and has written about it on his blog. I have come to greatly appreciate Dr. Rainer’s stance and voice on matters of the church. His book I Am a Church Member is important for Christians to read to understand how to be a healthy church member.
The book opens with a story of a man committed to staying at his local church and another who wants to leave. In chapter one Dr. Rainer explores what it looks like to be a functioning member while in chapter two he looks at how to bring unity to the local church. Chapter three explores preferences and desires not getting in the way of committing to the church. Chapter four examines the importance of praying for church leaders. Chapter five explains what it means to lead one’s family to be healthy church members. The book concludes with looking at what it means to treasure church membership.
I Am A Church Member is a very good book that will challenge how Christian approach attending and being a part of the Church. Often in my experience Christians come to Church as consumers and forget that while yes; they need to be fed from the Word of God; as they are growing in Christ they also need to serve Christ. This book will help Christians understand what their role and responsibilities are within the Church with the intended goal being that a healthy and functioning members of local churches help impact their work places and communities for the Gospel. While what I just described is the heart of this book much more could be said about this excellent resource. This fabulous resource would be great for small groups to go through. Whether this resource is used in small group or just for reading at one’s leisure, Dr. Thom Rainer has given the Church a gift in I Am A Church Member, a book that I believe the Lord will use to help Christians understand the importance of the local Church and how they should approach their membership in it.
The one drawback is the chapter on Pastors and church leaders. There are very few pastors that run into the situation of constant overwork that Rainer describes. Most churches have more that one staff member now to look after some of what he attributes to a single pastor or churchs have developed proceedures to ensure they have proper time to themselves.. There are times when a Pastor may find himself harried with a number of colliding demands on his time, but rarely on an ongoing basis and, in these days this is not different that the average working person. While Rainer does mention praying for other church leaders they are given only passing mention. Many lay leaders work full time and then put in a lot of additional time to volunteering in various church activities. This needed as much recognition as the Pastor.
I would like to have used this book as a church-wide small group study, but this chapter was my reason not to. I felt it would be demeaning to hard working lay people and create controversy over the role of the pastor in our church where the pastor recently left.
On the whole though it is a book every church attender should read and consider.
Thom Rainer in his book, I Am a Church Member, provides his audience with a clear, applicable commentary on how we, as church members, can better understand, appreciate, and enjoy our time in the church. Perhaps the first point that should be made is that this book's main audience is the new, disconnected, or frustrated Christian. Rainer repeatedly shares about people who come into the church, get excited, become more involved but ultimately see the flaws in the church. What Rainer offers is that we have two choices. We can either accept the flaws of the men and women we serve with, or we can focus on these flaws and because of this drive ourselves out of the church. This is not to say that we as Christians don't all (regardless of or time or position in the church) need to here this message. We all experience frustration and burnout; however, the thrust of Rainer's purpose is how to get the disenfranchised Christian to understand what it really means to be a member of the church.
This book would prove extraordinarily useful in a home study, membership class, or small group study. What makes it most pertinent to these types of studies are the structure, the review, and the pledge. The book is broken into six, manageable sections that could easily be shared and discussed in under an hour. At the end of these sections are review questions. These questions help not only with discussion of a group, but also with the reflection of an individual. Finally, each section ends with a pledge. Not unlike the Pledge of Allegiance that we recited in school, these pledges are there for each person to reflect on our personal responsibly and accountability to something greater: our commitment to God, the church, and to each other.
Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President
Dr. Nicholson is a member of the christianaudio review program. To learn more, visit their website at: www.christianaudio.com.