I Am a Church Member

January 25, 2012

UPDATE: Listen to the podcast episode about this post.

I am a church member.

I will seek to be a source of unity in the church. I know there are no perfect pastors, staff, or other 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 a 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 like the metaphor of membership. It’s not membership as in a civic organization or a country club. It’s the kind of membership given to us in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now you are the body of Christ and individual members of it” (I Corinthians 12:27). Because I am a member of the body of Christ, I must be a functioning member, whether I am an “eye,” an “ear,” or a “hand.” As a functioning member, I will give. I will serve. I will minister. I will evangelize. I will study. I will seek to be a blessing to others. I will remember that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

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 a part of something so much greater than any one person or member.

I am a church member.

And I thank God that I am.

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  • charity c donggon says on

    Hello Thom,

    What if it’s the pastor and the elders of the church are cause of the church decline because they have become involved politically and secularly and had influenced the people to become like them?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Charity –

      It could be, but my essay was about the members of the church, based on 1 Corinthians 12. I did not write from the perspective of the elders, but from the membership in general.

  • Thom:

    Thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to inspire to write this 500 word declaration. It is supported by the Word of God and it has no self-motive or man motives. I am a pastor and will teach this to our three year congregation who is about evangelism and outreach. We do not call ourselves members but servants and laborers in the body of Christ. With your blessing that you already gave to use. I will post this on our church website of course with proper credit given to you. Again, man of God, keep blessing us with Words of Inspiration

  • Martin Roules says on

    I am a CHRISTIAN first and foremost. My membership in any congregation is secondary.

    The church of man is flawed when it becomes anti-Biblical. A Christian holds such churches accountable to Scripture. Hence, the PCUSA is in membership freefall because Christians are abandoning the dry-rotted leadership. We see Thyratyrian church and understand the example.

    I am a CHRISTIAN first and foremost. My membership in any congregation is secondary.

    Mainstream American denominations have lost their salt. They have become of the world and are deeper in the world. Whether country clubs or agents of sexual codependency, these churches no longer contain the transformative message of the Bible.

    I am a CHRISTIAN first and foremost. My membership in any congregation is secondary.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Martin –

      To be a Christian is to be willing to be a member of the body of Christ. You may not like how individual congregations demonstrate membership, but you cannot escape the biblical truths of 1 Corinthians 12: We are called to be functioning members of the church.

      • Martin Roules says on

        To be a Christian is to place God and Jesus above all else. I am not a Christian “and” a Presbyterian (or Baptist or Methodist or Lutheran). As such, how a congregation demonstrates membership is not my primary concern. How a congregation rightly presents God’s Word certainly is crucial — even more critically if His Word is being corrupted by political, social, or New Age agendas.

        God calls us OUT of those assemblies (and instructs us to remove our children too). Would you remain in a Mormon assembly where overt heresy is taught? No. Why, then, would you stay in a mainline assembly that has abandones Biblical principles in favor of worldy wisdom? Do you preach how Biblical abortion is? How about the “equal holiness” of same sex marriage? Watching carefully for your 2 Tim 4 moments: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”

      • Drew Dabbs says on

        First, this is not really a direct reply to your comment, and I truly hope it is not taken the wrong way. I’ve simply been following the comments via email and wanted to weigh in on the discussion.

        Church “membership” is defined in many ways. The working definition throughout Dr. Rainer’s book is based on 1 Corinthians 12 and tends to focus more on function than on status (having one’s name on a church roll).

        Neither I nor any other Southern Baptist pastor or denominational leader I know would personally espouse or endorse “membership” in any church that wasn’t thoroughly Christ-centered and Bible-based.

        In short, to be a Christ-follower is to be a member (in the 1 Corinthians 12 sense) of the body of Christ. That “membership” is manifest most fully (perhaps only) in the context of a local body of believers. That local body of believers may take the form of a house church, an established church, or anything in between.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Excellent response Drew.

      • Agreed Drew Agreed BUT why do we have to always have “membership” misconstrued with being a member of the body of Christ. Why the title of this blog and the now published book “I am a church member” Why not say I am a member of the body of Christ? Why then the push for “memberships” in our local churches and affiliations? All “churches” I know of want the membership and to get the membership they have their qualifications set by their affiliation. SAD really. What I find very interesting is the fact that all churches won’t let you have a vote or say unless you’re a member. BUT they won’t refuse your tithe or contribution. Besides why do most churches want memberships? looks good on their annual report and allows them to build bigger kingdoms.

  • Benjamin says on

    I like the post. I would like to hear Dr. Rainer’s thoughts on church membership being a qualification in the church. I think all too often the idea of a “church member” gets distorted by God-loving churches. They often make it a qualification or standard for this or for that, which is unfortunate in my opinion. The only qualification or standard for things should be Jesus. Are you a Christ follower. If so, plug the person in and let him or her serve. Church membership should never be the first step in a hierarchy. It all begins with accepting and following after Jesus, and that may not include membership in the church right away. If a Christ-follower is capable and willing to serve before becoming a member of a church, use that person and his or her gifts to the glory of God, whether or not they are a “church member”. Alas, often times, some churches will require membership before allowing the Christ-follower to serve.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Benjamin –

      I think I have an idea of the context in which you use “church membership.” My best response is to ask “Why not?” Why would someone be reticent to identify with other believers to serve alongside them? I understand that there is some baggage associated with the term “membership.” I use the term based on 1 Corinthians 12. A person is willing to identify with the body, and then function as a part of the body.

      Thanks for the good question.

  • My sermon this week is on church membership. We’re going to give each person a copy this week (properly attributed, of course) and let them know about the book coming out next month.

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