Thom Rainer’s I Am A Church Member (Nashville: B&H, 2013) is a helpful little booklet that sets forth a healthy Christian attitude towards church membership. It isn’t a detailed theological treatise about church membership, but it is a good and straightforward introduction to biblical church membership. It is written in clear language, is quite short (less than 80 small pages), and gives a decent summary of how a Christian should be an active member of a local church. At the end of each short chapter is a set of questions and a pledge for each Christian to make as a member of a church.
I appreciated how Rainer applied the gospel throughout the book. I also appreciated the pastoral warmth that was evident in the book. I was convicted by Rainer’s frank admission that we can blame the church’s decline in the last 20 or 30 years on several things, but one of those things is this: “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 part of the body of Christ. We join churches expecting others to serve us, to feed us to care for us. We don’t like the hypocrites in the church, but we fail to see our own hypocrisies.”
“[But] God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks. [Rather,] 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” (p. 5-6).
Finally, I liked how Rainer explained that church membership is not like country club membership:
“For [people who view church membership like country club membership], membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices” (p.11).
Rainer doesn’t just critique/deconstruct in this book. He also sets a positive, Christian, and biblical way to view church membership and live as Christians in a body. If you’re looking for a starting point in how to view church membership, this is a good one to get: I Am A Church Member. Since Rainer doesn’t discuss everything about church membership, you’ll have to get other books if you want more in-depth reading. However, this is one that I’d give to someone who needs a brief, simple, and straightforward description of what it means to serve in the family of God.