Book Review: I am a Church Member, by Thom S. Rainer


Thom S. Rainer, I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference (B&H Books, 2013)

In this short book (79 pages) Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian resources and author of the more recent Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive
(B&H Books, 2014), tackles the the attitudes and responsibilities of church members.

Rainer brings years of research and consultations with struggling churches to the table to diagnose the problem with a modern Western view of membership in a church. He argues that we have carried a country club attitude with us from the secular world and applied it to the church, with detrimental results.

According to Rainer, a country club membership primarily conveys rights and privileges to the member. Once dues are paid, the member has rights to use the facilities, to dictate tastes and desires, and to be served by country club staff. In contrast to this, a Biblical view of church membership includes joyful responsibilities and opportunities for the member, rather than rights and privileges.

As a remedy to this country club way of thinking about membership, Rainer suggests the reader consider and commit to six pledges of church membership. Each pledge is represented by a corresponding chapter title, and each chapter includes study questions to guide group discussions.

  1. I Will Be a Unifying Church Member
  2. I Will Not Let the Church Be About My Preferences and Desires
  3. I Will Pray for My Church Leaders
  4. I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members
  5. I Will Be a Functioning Member
  6. I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift

Rainer utilizes a pastoral style and personal examples to illustrate common scenarios in the church and how a shift in expectations from country club to Biblical membership not only remedies problems, but also strengthens the church.

On a personal note, the lay leader at my church handed me this book last night at a meeting. I went home and immediately starting reading it, finishing it in two short sessions. I couldn’t put it down. This book is an excellent starting point for church leaders and lay members alike to evaluate their own hearts and expectations surrounding church membership. The six pledges are thought provoking, convicting, and encouraging at the same time.

I highly recommend this book for pastors, church leadership, and lay persons alike, who believe the local church is God’s primary means of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, and who wish to strengthen all those who, by faith,  seek to live as vibrant members of the church.


Isaac Hopper

Isaac Hopper (PhD, Manchester) is a United Methodist Pastor serving churches in the Indiana Conference. He writes publicly about Christian discipleship, faith, and living the called life. He also writes academically about Wesleyan theology and practice.