Thursday, January 29, 2015

Membership Matters

Note: This post originally appeared as my 25 January 2015 church bulletin article.

In his wonderfully brief yet profound book I Am a Church Member, Thom Rainer, a church-based researcher in Nashville, surveyed nearly 600 congregations to get an idea of the shape of the American church.  His research demonstrated that 90% of these congregations were declining, a statistic that has been verified in other studies.  He deals with this research in his book Autopsy of a Deceased Church, which we be looking at later.

However Rainer also found six common characteristics of members (not ministers) in the 10% of congregations that were healthy, vibrant, stable and/or growing.  First, healthy churches have functioning members.  It is not just a one-man show; everyone plays a part in the work of the congregation.  Second, healthy churches have members who seek unity.  We do not have to all like or agree with what goes on around here (that’s conformity); yet we should strive to unify in our support of the vision because we believe it is where God is leading us.

Third, healthy churches have members who put the mission of the church ahead of their own preferences.  This one is touchy, I know.  However, remember the words of the Paul to the Philippians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves” (2:3).  Our whims and fancies about what should go on should also be second to the vision that God has given our congregation.

Fourth, healthy churches have members who pray for their leaders.  I personally appreciate how many of you tell me that you pray for me on a regular basis.  Fifth, healthy churches have members who make church a family affair.  Membership is not a Sunday-only commitment but carries over in to every aspect of our lives.  And sixth, healthy churches have members who treasure their membership.  This means we put aside our sense of entitlement and live with the understanding that salvation (and church membership) is a gift that has been gracious given to us.  May we never abuse this wonderful gift from God!

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