What Is a Healthy Church Member?
I’ve had the privilege of being in church all of my life. I have been a member of a small, medium, and large size church. Recently I read a book entitled “What is a Healthy Church Member?” written by the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Caymen Islands by the name of Thabiti M. Anyabwile.
I’ve never really thought through that question before, have you? I guess if you and I were challenged to describe some characteristics of a healthy church member, we could come up with several. I was challenged by this book and it was very helpful me for someone to define a healthy church member from a biblical perspective. I have excerpted his list of 10 characteristics as well as a brief description of each. I hope this helps and challenges you to gain a deeper understanding of what a healthy church member is and to be a healthy church member as well.
A healthy church member is:
An Expositional Listener: Expositional preaching allows the Scripture to direct the particular point that needs to be made in a sermon. In other words, what is the meaning of this passage and what does it say to us individually and corporately? So when it comes to being an expositional listener it means that our agenda for listening is to understand what Scripture is saying. We should listen primarily for the voice and message of God s revealed in his Word. We should listen to hear what he has written. . By doing so we benefit because:
- We cultivate a hunger for God’s Word
- It helps us focus on God’s will and to follow him
- It protects the gospel and our lives from corruption
- It encourages faithful pastors
- It is helpful to the congregation as a whole
A Biblical Theologian: “Ignorance both of His ways and of the practice of communion with Him – lies at the root of the church’s weakness today.” J.I. Packer “Knowing God, 1973.” The term Biblical Theologian is used to keep two things in mind:
- The Bible is the self revelation of God; it is the source material for developing great thoughts about God. The Christian who is interested in knowing his God is the Christian who wants to know what God says about himself in the Bible.
- To understand the history of revelation, the grand themes and doctrines of the Bible, and how they fit together. In other words, healthy church members give themselves to understanding the unity and progression of the Bible as whole – not just isolated or favorite passages. They approach the Bible knowing that they are reading one awesome story of God redeeming for himself a people for his own glory. And in that story, they see that God is a creating God, a holy God, a faithful God, a loving God, and a sovereign God as he makes and keeps his promises to his people, beginning with Adam and Eve and progressing to the final consummation of all things.
Gospel Saturated: The greatest need in the world today is the gospel. It is the greatest need of the world because men, women, and children are perishing without vital knowledge of God through the good news of our savior and his Son, Jesus Christ. The greatest need in the church today is the gospel. The gospel is not only news for a perishing world, it is the message that forms, sustains, and animates the church. Apart from the Gospel the church has nothing to say – that is, nothing to say that cannot be said by some other human agency. The gospel distinguishes the church from the world, defines her message and mission in the world, and steels her people against the fiery darts of the evil one and the false allurement of sin.
Genuinely Converted: Conversion is a change of life, not merely a decision. “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:5). Genuine converts to Christ grieve at their sin. They hate their sins, and they desire and work to walk in integrity and righteousness.
A Biblical Evangelist: Through the years many people have made a “profession of faith” but did they understand the biblical proclamation of:
- The holiness and righteousness of the sovereign God who created all things
- The sinfulness of man and the judgment due to him for rebelling against God
- The need of man for radical change, for a new heart and perfect righteousness we need and made the atonement for our sins that satisfies God the Father
- The need for repentance and to rely solely on Christ Jesus
- A healthy church member is faithful to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people God places in contact with s (1 Cor. 4:1-2).
A Committed Member: A committed church member:
- Attends Regularly (Heb. 10:24-25)
- Seeks Peace (Romans 14:19, James 3:18)
- Edifies Others (1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4:11-16)
- Warns and admonishes others (see below)
- Pursues Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-21, Matt. 5:23-24)
- Bears with others (patience, longsuffering (matt. 5:5, 18:21,22)
- Prepares for the Ordinances (Communion, Baptism)
- Supports the Work of the Ministry (Romans 12:6-8, 2 Cor. 8-9)
Seeks Discipline: Discipline is about education and learning, order and growth. Discipline and disciple share the same common Latin root and are tied closely to the idea of education and order. The disciple is a student, one who participates in a certain discipline, who learns a profession or who masters a body of thought. Such a person has his or her life ordered under or by the rules of a trade. Professional athletes abide by the rules of their sport. Doctors adhere to the principles of the American Medical Association or the Hippocratic Oath. The same is true with the church. The church is a place where everything in the gathered services should be ‘done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Order is necessary for edification.
A Growing Disciple: It’s impossible to separate the health of a local church from the health of its members. There must be an expectation of growth. A growing church member is someone who looks more and more like Jesus in attitude of heart, thought, speech, and action.
A Humble Follower: The health of a local church may ride exclusively on the membership’s response to the church’s leadership. How the congregation receives or rejects its leaders has a direct effect on the possibilities of faithful ministry and church health. Does a congregation appreciate and accept sound preaching? Will its members trust and follow a leader in difficult or unclear situations? Do they rally behind or tear apart the leadership when plans and ideas fail? Three healthy attitudes of a healthy church member:
- Honors the elders…. A healthy church member honors the elder’s office. He or she esteems it highly, is thankful for it, and respects those who serve the Lord’s people as elders.
- Shows open hearted love to the leaders….There should be a sweet exchange of affection between pastor and congregation
- Is teachable. The pastor’s instruction is meant to be gentle, kind, and for our good.
A Prayer Warrior: We should pray constantly and we should pray in the Spirit. We should pray for laborers and shepherds, for all of the saints, for those in authority (church and governmental), for those who abuse and persecute. We should pray with the confident knowledge of what God is doing in the world through Christ his Son and pray for the worldwide advancement of his gospel and will.
What Pastor Anyabwile describes as a healthy church member is nothing different than a spiritually mature Christian. Each of us should continue in our faith by allowing God to makes us more like his Son, Jesus Christ. Ken Petrus, our Executive Pastor, operates our budget on the following premise, “if we watch the pennies, the dollars take care of themselves.” For the sake of this article and for the overall health of the church, I’ll say, “if we take of the people, the organization will take care of itself.” Taking care of the people includes leadership and the individual. We define a disciple as an individual that is learning the teachings of Christ, living out those teachings, and leading others to do the same. A group of disciples results in a group of healthy church members.
What is a Healthy Church Member? Thabiti M. Anyabwile, published by Crossway, 2008