In the last 30 or so years, church shopping has become something of a national pastime. People feel like if they’re not getting their “needs” met, they can and should look around for a bigger, better deal. The idea of discipleship in a local church is almost an oddity in the church today—the exception rather than the rule. With that in mind, I would like to commend to you a wonderful book by Thabiti Anyabwile (thah-bee-tee ahn-ya-bweel-ay is about the closest I can phonetically spell it) called What is a Healthy Church Member (Crossway, 2008). The book is an examination of church membership with emphasis on what scripture says about how a Christian should relate to the body of Christ. In short, the author examines how a healthy church member should view scripture, how they should respond to the gospel, and how they should relate to the body of Christ.
First of all, in chapters 1 and 2, Mr. Anyabwile examines how a healthy church member should view scripture. The first chapter, titled “A Healthy Church member is an Expositional Listener”. The Christian, he posits, should be listening to the sermon (and this rightly assumes the sermon is scriptural) to hear what the author of that scripture intended to say rather than listening “…for practical how to advice…” or for “messages that bolster our self esteem” (page 19). Rather, the healthy church member will listen to hear what God has to say and seek ways to apply that truth to their life. Further, in chapter two, Anyabwile explains that a healthy church member is a biblical theologian. In other words, a Christian should be a student of scripture—all of scripture. They should study not only the New Testament but also the Old Testament. A healthy church member recognizes that “knowledge of God comes only from drinking deeply from the message of the Bible with all of its rich themes” (pg 36).
Secondly, in chapters 3-5, Anyabwile examines how a healthy church member responds to the gospel. In chapter 3, he describes such a member as being “gospel saturated”. Rather than viewing the gospel as something that happens to you and then you move on from there, he exhorts readers to constantly meditate on the truth of the gospel and what it means in their lives. With that in mind, he also describes a healthy church member as genuinely converted (chapter 4). If a person has not responded to the gospel in repentance from sin and faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, one can hardly be a healthy church member. The logical outgrowth of these implications of the gospel is, as he notes in chapter 5, a healthy church member is a biblical evangelist. When a healthy church member shares the gospel, it is the true gospel revealed by Christ and taught by His apostles. Furthermore, a healthy church member will seek to order his or her life around the gospel and seek opportunities to share that gospel with those they encounter.
Finally, in chapters 6-10, Anyabwile shares how members ought to relate to the body of Christ. They should be committed (chapter 6) rather than nominally involved. They should seek discipline (formative and corrective) and be available to discipline others (chapter 7). A healthy church member will also experience spiritual growth and humbly support their leadership prayerfully as they follow them (chapters 8 and 9). Lastly, a healthy church member’s spiritual life involves a continual attitude of prayer (chapter 10).
The book is fairly short and you could likely read a chapter a day without great difficulty. The book would make a great devotional and worked really well in our church’s small group study this past fall. Thabiti’s book would be a welcome addition to the library of any Christian.