Ten Signs That Your Church Members Think the Church Is a Country Club

When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying.

Paul describes biblical church membership well in 1 Corinthians 12. When you are a biblical church member, you are a functioning church member. You serve others. You encourage others. You put the needs of others before your own needs. The members are not focused on their preferences. They are focused on others. Country club church members are focused on self.

Is it possible, then, to see some warnings before the church becomes a de facto country club? Yes, it is. When you start to see one or more members begin a pattern of making any of the following ten statements, you should hear those statements as warning signs.

1. “I am not getting fed.” While it is certainly possible that the pastor is not providing biblical preaching, most of the time this statement is an excuse to leave the church, to stop contributing to the church financially, or to stop doing ministry.

2. “I am not getting my needs met.” This statement is broad and sweeping. Ironically, we church members get our true needs met when we don’t seek to get our needs met. Serving others sacrificially is the true need of believers in Christ.

3. “I pay the bills of the church.” If you ever hear members talk about the importance of their financial gifts, you know you have a country club membership problem. The members see their gifts as country club dues that entitle them to get their own way. About 2,000 years ago, these people were called “Pharisees.”

4. “I don’t like the way our church budget is spent.” Most of the time, the meaning behind this sentence is, “I did not get my way with the church budget.”

5. “I don’t like the music style.” This statement is a classic preference-driven statement of a country club church member. Since they are paying their “dues,” they believe they have a right to have the type of music that is their personal preference.

6. “I don’t like the order of worship.” Similar to the previous item, this statement reflects an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.

7. “I am leaving the church because I want a better youth/children’s program for my children.” I am grateful for missionaries and their children around the world that are ready to serve in churches outside their cultures. They don’t expect the church to have a menu of fun activities for their children. They want their children to learn to serve in the context where God has placed them. Maybe we should have that attitude in our own churches.

8. “I am mad because I didn’t get to vote on it.” This statement is more likely to be made in churches with a congregational government. Some of the members expect to vote on every decision and every expenditure. Such attitudes bring the ministry of the church to a grinding halt. There has to be a vote for even the small decisions.

9. “I think the pastor makes too much.” In a country club church, the members have the attitude that keeping the pastor poor will keep him humble. Not surprisingly, these country club church members do not want to practice that same humility.

10. “I don’t like the changes these new members are bringing.” That is another classic country club church membership statement. It reflects a concern that the new growth will dilute their power. And if that happens, the longer-term members might not get their way as they have for years.

When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying.

Country club church members are focused on their preferences. What would you add to this list? Let me hear from you.

Posted on February 28, 2022

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • It’s unfortunate that you feel so little empathy that you compiled a list of why churches and pastors aren’t falling short. In your view, parishioners are not simply mistaken, but their concerns are evidence of their guilt. To every concern, you seem to say “look in the mirror.” Are your concerns evidence of yours?

  • It appears that these are the classical complaints that today’ s pastors have concerning their church members.
    Perhaps there should look closely in the mirror.

  • Christopher Seah says on

    I think there is a lot of truth in the list above. No doubt, it’s not exhaustive. And no doubt, great care should be used before unleashing this list on one’s own congregation because a few “country clubbers.” But still, helpful in terms of the indicators. The challenge is, country clubbers can easily turn this list around. If a member sincerely values more expository, Christ-centered preaching, the country clubber could turn this around and say: “Ah, but that’s YOUR preference. Why can’t I have mine?” I guess my point is, we all have preferences. But some preferences are more Biblical, Christ-centered, and more helpful to spiritual maturity than others. And the elders of a church need to be mature enough to stand for what is for the long-term good of a congregation and gently but firmly lead the country clubbers into more healthy paths.

  • When members “can’t reach the Lead Pastor.”

  • Hello, and praise the Lord everyone. Sometime back, I read a similar article asking is your church a cruise ship or a battleship? A cruise ship is a leisure ride of food and entertainment; while a battleship is designed for the perfecting, edifying, encouraging, and training the saints for victory in battle. Dear reader, as you know, God has raised up apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for that explicit reason, along with dinners of fellowship to draw a closeness between saints to lock arms against the wiles of the devil. Thank You…

  • Josh Yates says on

    Walking through basically all of these in a church that had desired revitalization. Started there 6 months before Covid and thankfully the Lord is leading my wife and I out of this church. Now I am job seeking and taking some time away from the pastorate.

  • Darlene Ray says on

    I won’t serve if (insert name of non-prefered person) is involved.
    Last time no one said “Thank you,” when I (insert action member felt unappreciated for doing.)
    I have spent my time in that ministry, now I’m going to rest.

  • Ellison Marshall says on

    A church starts becoming a country country when:
    1. There is a coffee bar with snacks
    2. The music is like a concert with lights and fog machines
    3. The “stage” (preaching platform) is lit up and the congregation is in the dark
    4. Preaching is directed to the “felt needs” of the members
    5. Mostly topical preaching instead of expository
    6. Elders/pastors operate beyond the only authority they have…the Bible being their only authority
    The above list points at the members. Leaders can be at fault also

    • Joe Graffi says on

      I disagree with your #1,2 &3.
      #1. There are churches that serve breakfast every week to meet the needs of not only some of the church families but also those in the community. It’s called “Outreach”. The ones that have “snack bars” encourage fellowship before and after the services.
      #2. This is your opinion. There are reasons for each thing you mention for churches that broadcast their services. I am guessing you don’t care for the “style” of the music either.
      #3. Partially covered in my response to #2 above. Beyond that, is the congregation literally “in the dark”? Or is the lighting dimmed? Most churches project the scriptures and pastoral illustrations, member and visitor information, etc. on the screen so that families with small children can follow along without having to turn their Bible pages. The “darkened” area makes reading what is on the screen more easily seen.
      Your first three comments don’t really seem to have anything to do with what Thom is saying other than your personal preferences.
      #4 is partially repeated in # 5
      #5. There needs to be a balance between topical and expository preaching. You don’t have to read much of the New Testament to realize that most of it IS topical. A good pastor (Shepard of the flock) needs to know the spiritual needs of the flock and will, through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, preach what needs to be preached.
      #6 I’m not sure I understand the comment as most preachers/leaders operate within the “Church Manual” of the denomination.

      You may need to do self introspection making sure you yourself are not borderline #2, 5 & 10 of Thom’s list.

    • Hit that nail squarely on the gead

    • That is so clearly stated. Hit that nail squarely on the head.

  • James Ruberg says on

    One that I would add would be: “I don’t want anyone sitting in my seat.” Some church people think that a particular seat or pew belongs to them and they get offended if a visitor or someone else sits there.

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