After reading many positive posts and comments about the highly endorsed Thom Rainer book I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference, I bought a copy and gave it a read. Given the title and intent of the book, the book nailed it! But…yes, there is a “but”…the book could have hit a grand slam instead of just a home run.
First off, the praise. As a person who has been in full time ministry for about a decade – as a church planter and as an elder – the contents of the book came as a fresh ocean breeze addressing some of the difficult attitudes people have regarding being a member of a church. Thankfully, since planting a church on a college campus and another church in a nearby community, by the grace of God, we have not had to deal with many situations such as described in the book. Namely, self-serving attitudes better fit for country club than for a member of the body of Christ (to use Rainer’s metaphor). To have an assembly of people who lovingly declare the chapter titles would be dream. Just imagine a congregation declaring, “I will be a functioning church member. I will be a unifying church member. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires. I will pray for my church leaders. I will lead my family to be healthy church members. I will treasure church membership as a gift.”
The beauty of a church standing together with the attitudes demonstrated in I am a Church Member is not one of control for the leadership or to have a mindless, Borg-like congregation. Rather, the beauty is one of power for the kingdom of God. A group of people sold out for Jesus and for one another. The impact and testimony to the community would be amplified to God’s glory. The church would become a magnet.
The beauty and power of the potential of a church being like-minded as described in the book, is what I find to be the weakness of I am a Church Member. The final chapter started to go in this direction but stopped short. If Thom Rainer were to write another book, I am a Church Member, Part 2, I would love to see him present the flip-side to each chapter. Maybe something like the following:
Chapter 1: I Will Be a Functioning Church Member and the Church Will Intentionally Seek to Help Develop My Functioning.
Chapter 2: I Will Be a Unifying Church Member and the Church Will Help Me When I Struggle with Unity
Chapter 3: I Will Not Let My Church Be about My Preferences and Desires and the Church Will Constructively Communicate its Vision and Mission
Chapter 4: I Will Pray for My Church Leaders and My Church Leaders Will Pray for Me
Chapter 5: I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members and the Church Will Provide Community Opportunities to Support My Labor
Chapter 6: I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift and the Church Will Treasure Me as a Gift
Now, I understand and would hope that they hypothetical Part 2 would be written in a way that would not undermine the original book’s message. Part 2 would be more of the carrot to assist the congregation in seeing the power and joy that comes with serving the church as part of a community. I am a Church Member helps hold a mirror up to our often self-centered hearts, but the unwritten Part 2 could act like a painting of what could be if we allow the grace of God to operate in our hearts to live out the attitudes presented in I am a Church Member.