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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Comments

  1. Thom Rainer says

    All of you are free to use this blog in full or in part. Just give my blog address and me proper credit.
    Thanks.

    • says

      beloved in Christ
      Greetings to you in the most powerful of our lord
      and savior Jesus Christ. I am very happy to talk to you today.id not
      know who you are. But we Have been praying f or the last few days. I
      want to say who we are my name is Mrs. jayamma, am 38 my husband’s
      name john victor aged 40. Our sir name is Chadalavada. We are working
      (Gospel) in 10 villages. Ours is an agency area. There is a city
      jangaredy gudem which is 15 kilometers far away from us. It is a city.
      All of our villagers are agricultural laborers. They are very poor. We
      are working for the Lord among them. While I was praying with fasting
      today friend’s likes to send their old clothing please we have to
      children. Our daughter is padmaja. son is Lewis Kumar). They are
      supporting our work here. My husband is a village doctor (First Aid)
      He got permission from the government to do first Aid treatment. I
      work tailoring and embroidery. I give my tithe to 10 old age mothers.
      Every year on 1st January I used to arrange good food for them, giving
      good India dress (Saree blouse) they will pray for me. Sometimes we go
      to Rajahmundry and Eluru cities to distributed gospel tracts and new
      testaments. My husband encourages me. I am writing this letter with a
      great hope that you will pray for us. We are praying for your family
      and your ministry thank you very much that you’re going through this
      poor woman’s letter. If God talks to you’re for us please pray for us.
      First time I am writing this to you. If any mistakes in this Letter
      please forgives me. Our God always with you
      Yours Indian Sister
      Ch.Jayamma
      ………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
      Address:-
      ch.jayamma
      Parampeta (post)534447
      Jangareddygudem (Mandel)..west .Godard deistic.AP .s.India

  2. Kathryn says

    Agreed on all accounts. My family is praying about staying where we are, or moving to another body of believers. We have been in the same body for 30 years, so this is not something we take lightly. Please pray that we make a decision that honors God.

    • says

      Hey Kathryn,

      So is it over doctrine? As a pastor myself we had folks leave when I became the pastor. One’s in fact that voted on me to come as pastor. I find it really sad that because our church and one’s like ours who don’t have all the STUFF the big churches do, people leave giving the lame excuse that God is leading them elsewhere. If you do leave please don’t blame God…

      • Betsy says

        I believe that it should always be about God whether we leave or not. I believe it is crucial to be a member of the church He wants me to be a part of and just not where I feel good about going. My husband and I were called out from a good church to another to do ministry there that was needed. It is all about where God can use me and not where I want to go……

  3. says

    I would like to reference this as well. Just had a meeting about this with our senior leadership team last night. Very timely. Thanks, PM.

  4. says

    Thom (I have a hard time not writing “Tom”),
    You blessed me. I’m going to share this with our church. I believe it is a message American Christians desperately need. I’m enjoying what I am seeing in lifeway.

  5. Thom Rainer says

    Sharon –
    I don’t have an email list, but you can subscribe free to my blog by clicking on the button at the bottom of this page.
    Mahlon –
    Feel free to do so, just give the blog and me credit if you reprint it.
    All –
    Thanks for the gracious comments.

  6. Sue Hassell says

    Hello Thom,
    What a beautiful work of spiritual art. I wish these words could be written on the hearts of each and every church member. The local church would be transformed!
    Blessings to you, my former pastor,
    Sue Hassell

  7. Thom Rainer says

    Sue –
    It is so great to hear from you. You were always one of my favorite church members. You made my service as your pastor a joy.

  8. Cathy Crosley says

    This is amazing and truly inspired. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.
    Surely God, in His infinite wisdom, has used you as His mouthpiece. You speak to my heart and to the struggles our church has faced this past 2 years. Your words come as a comfort and as a challenge and that is what is needed to grow in our walk as true diciples of Jesus.
    Blessings to you always!!

  9. Jonathan Recaman says

    Hello Pastor Rainer,
    I’m an associate pastor in a church in the north of Spain. I will be preaching about Unity in the church this coming sunday, and I would like to ask your permission to use your article at the end of my message. I think your article is excellent, and it shows the responsibility each believer has to maintain the unity in the body of Christ. May the Lord bless your ministry.

  10. says

    Thom, you describe here some of the antidote for what is nothing less than poisons circulating through the body that is the American church. May the biblical message of unity, humility and mutual submission find fertile soil in the hearts and minds of American believers.

  11. Roy Hopogood says

    I Absolutely Love This! Thank you for sharing. Every church member needs a copy of this to place in our bible.

  12. Minnie Slaughter says

    Dr. Rainer, May I use this to pass out to our congregation when I speak at our church on unity in February. I will certainly give you the credit as author.

  13. Wynette James says

    Thank you! I loved this post. I have to say I posted it on my FB page. I was amazed only 4 likes (from people who don’t even attend a church). Not a sound from any other member of my Church! But I did get 7 text mess: “Is everything ok at Church? are you ok”. The best one “I wasn’t there Wed. night did something happen?” HA! One lady whispered in my ear “I love the post about being a church memeber.” Then scurried away! We get home and I ask my husband to read it. He thought it was good too! For a moment I thought I did a bad thing! But can you say “CONVICTION”. Maybe? Any way I am thinking of printing it out on really nice paper, putting in a fame and hanging it on my wall!
    PS
    I did give all the credit to this blog when I posted it on FB so I am sure the Church attending people on my FB are secretly reading your blog. But heaven forbid we should rock the boat!
    Thanks again!

  14. John D. Rice says

    While I appreciate what you have written, I feel that this message is very self serving and is one that I see a lot coming from the pulpit. I have heard several messages like this in the last 6 months to a year and I cannot think of one time where I have heard a similar message talking about the responsibility coming from church leadership in treating people with gentleness and mercy particularly when there is such a power imbalance between those in the pulpit and those in the pew. I have seen church leadership justify gossip, bullying, and downright black balling of people when there comes to be disagreements with church leadership. Arrogance the point of not even feeling a responsibility to entertain discussion when someone comes to them in private as scripture would direct us. Hiding behind many of the points made above.
    Too man pastors have surrounded themselves with “yes men” and have set themselve beyond questioning.

  15. says

    Response to John D. Rice,
    I understand your plight all too well! Many Church leaders have dropped the ball in Leadership, even in our Church. My heart is heavy with grief, I cry out to God for strength and understanding. My emotions are all over the place. Things I see and feel coming from the leadership; one moment I am angry, another I am deep in Bible study trying to reason it all out. It is probably not my place to defend the” I Am A Church Member” but it touched me deeply. The Pastor as well as the Leadership of your church, my church; to me are nothing more than a member; they just have different functions. We all have different gifts and functions within the body of the church. But we are all part of the body; we are all members so I took this “blog” to mean; that the leadership should adhere to the same principles as the “pew” sitters. I don’t have the answers! I am really a “nobody”! In your voice (writing) I heard the same hurt and aggravation I felt for a long, long time. I really started to seek God and listen, really listen to what He had to say. Nothing is fixed, leadership is still non-existent; but it hit me one day. When I stand before God and He judges “ME”! He will not judge me for the actions of others, but He will judge my reaction; to the action of others. Now that I am focused on my actions I see how suppressed I have been and how I blamed that suppression on the leadership.
    I said “Why doesn’t this leadership go visit people”.
    A voice said why don’t you visit?
    Urrgh! Me?
    Timidly and fearful I did! The results were amazing! It would take another page just to describe the outcome!
    I pretty much left the “important” stuff up to the leaders, because I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not Godly enough! No one would/will take the time to talk to me; on and on. I might not be good enough; but it is not going matter when I’m judged.
    Should leadership step up and lead in a way that will cause growth and create new leadership?
    YES!
    Do they? Some do, some don’t.
    Can we change the present leadership?
    NO!
    But we can show leadership by being an example of what leadership should be.

  16. Drew Dabbs says

    I re-posted this again on my Facebook and Twitter today. Dr. Rainer, this is probably my favorite blog post that you’ve ever done, and I simply wanted to let you know.

    Thank you!

    • Thom Rainer says

      You are kind Drew. I have a small book by the same title to be released in two months. Stay tuned . . .

  17. says

    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.

  18. Benjamin says

    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

      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.

  19. Martin Roules says

    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

      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

        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

          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.

          • George says

            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.

  20. says

    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

  21. charity c donggon says

    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

      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.

  22. says

    Hey Thom, I am starting a six week series on “I am a member” at the church I pastor here in WV! Thanks for your insights! Our local newspaper gives me a column every week and will be sharing your contributions in this way as well! I look forward to introducing you and your blog to our 5,000 readers!

    Shalom,

    Pastor Jon Villers
    Lead Pastor
    Philippi Baptist Church

  23. says

    How have you heard churches successfully implement the ideas from I Am A Church Member? I want to implement through our Sunday School, but not sure the best method.
    Any suggestions?

  24. Jeff says

    I have been a believer since 1978. I have only been a part of two churches. The first for three decades, and the second since then. The first had no formal membership structure as far as a covenant to sign, or membership classes. The second has those things. I will not be signing a membership covenant. As I explained to the Pastor, I firmly believe the scriptures tell us to be committed to that community of believers in which we find ourselves or are led to. That church. Knowing the truthes in scripture and having the enabling of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts bestowed by Him allow us to do these things. A man created secondary document is not necessary, and possibly an insult to God to insinuate that it is necessary.
    I have seen levels of commitment in both situations. I have seen people wonderfully caring for the pastor and the entire body and others without a signed covenant, and yes I have seen the opposite. and in the church I am now with, you see the same. Folks who signed the covenant uninvolved, and some who have not who are. And vice versa. If we need to draw up a paper and have people sign it we are proving we are in helpless trouble already.
    I will argue biblically until I go to Christ that we should be actively committed to our church. Praying for all there, being a practical help, utilizing our spiritual gifts. I will steadfastly refuse to sign a paper as if that will document or help in the process.
    One last thing. I have read papers that try to use scripture to back up this paper signing concept. The “widows list” Paul refers to in writing to Timothy. Or jus the mention of the word “members”. Its very very poor interpretation. The mention of a list does not describe anything like what these covenants are about. And they interpret the word “member” in the modern usage like “member of a moose lodge”. Its members, as describe early in the blog, and scripturally used, connected parts of one body. Not something you sign up for, or sign to say “yup, I’m in”. Its just SO SO wrong.
    I agree with everything that coincides with scripture. We should be committed to living as what we are, members of the body of Christ. The paperwork is worse than not necessary.

  25. Tim Turner says

    Thanks Dr. Rainer. I am going to use this in the lesson tomorrow, but also at the our New Member Orientation tomorrow afternoon. Thanks also for allowing us to buy the “I am a Church Member” books to inexpensively. We give those out to new church member family units. It is a blessing.

    In Christ,
    Tim

Trackbacks

  1. [...] book is an expansion of a 500-word declaration about church membership he posted to his daily blog in 2012. The post drew an exceptional response and started a [...]

  2. [...] Based on an idea originally taken from this blog, I Am a Church Member discusses the attitudes and responsibilities of church members. Rainer addresses in detail what congregations should really be focusing on — praying for church leaders, being a functioning member, treasuring church membership, and more. [...]

  3. [...] 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).  (read the entire blog post here) [...]

  4. […] Based on an idea originally taken from this blog, I Am a Church Member discusses the attitudes and reponsibilities of church members. Rainer addresses in detail what congregations should really be focusing on – praying for church leaders, being a functioning member, treasuring church membership, and more. […]

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