M. Thabiti Anyabwile. What is a Healthy Church Member? Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. 120 pp.
There are many simple and profound books out there concerning the pastor, church leader, and expository preaching, but often there are minimal resources that are solid when it comes to church membership. This is one book that is simple and profound which constitutes what is a healthy church member. You could be serving in some ministry capacity in pastoral ministry, missions, etc., but you may not be a healthy church member. A healthy church member at the start is the right approach for any Christian before they start filling in the shoes for leadership. As Anthony J. Carter states, “A faithful pastor is also a good church member.” This is one book that will help fill the gap concerning the literature of Christian living. Any church or Christian that endeavors to implement the principles listed in the book will be a church that will experience Gospel growth.
This book consists of 10 parts that identifies a healthy church member as an expositional listener, biblical theologian, Gospel saturated, converted, biblical evangelist, committed, discipline, growing disciple, humble follower, and prayer warrior. I thought it was well thought out in terms of the logical format of this book. There are many categories in this book that is worth a detail review. The book starts and opens up with an expositional listener. Expositional listening is a major fountain head for the life of the church. Without it, the church will not learn nor be challenged. It is expositional preaching, which makes expositional listeners that will move the member to embrace the other categories in this book. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once stated, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” Why? Because true preaching is used as an instrument to convert dead hearts and an instrument that edifies believers. According to the author, there are many benefits surrounding expositional preaching. Here are the benefits: “helps us to focus on God’s will and to follow him (John 10:27), protects the gospel and our lives from corruption (2 Tim. 4:3-4), encourages faithful pastors ( 1 Timothy 5:17), benefits the gathered congregation (1 Cor. 1:10).”
The book also informs the reader how to be better expositional listeners too. Some ways to do that is to meditate on the sermon passage during our quite times, invest in some good commentaries, talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church service ends, talk about the sermon throughout the week, develop a habit of asking questions about the text, and have humility.
There are many good reminders in this book too that grabbed my heart. I was encouraged by his statements surrounding the importance for every church member to be theologians who desires to revere God, to be members who are Gospel saturated who will share it with themselves and others too, to be members that will do self-examination to see if one is in the faith, to be members who will submit to local church leadership, support the ministry, love one another, to be members who are discipline in their spiritual walk and one who seeks discipline from others, to be members who are constantly bearing fruit, to be members who are humble and teachable, to be members who pray, to be members who supports outside ministry and interaction, which is worth the quote itself alone. For example,
This is perhaps the least obvious of the actions that a healthy church member takes in following leadership. There is a great tendency among church members to be fairly possessive of their pastors–‘he’s our pastor.’ There are positive aspects to their possessiveness. It shows, for example, an open-hearted attachment to the shepherds.
However, this possessiveness can become selfishness if the congregation refuses to support a pastor’s involvement in ministry outside the local congregation. The person most often hurt in such selfishness is the pastor himself, who, without outside stimulation and refreshment from fellow pastors and leaders, tends to dry and shrivel on the vine. A healthy church member contributes to a leader’s ongoing health and vigor in the ministry by encouraging participation in the outside conferences, speaking opportunities, and fellowship with other church leaders.
The Bible provides ample illustration of one congregation’s support of another. A local church’s generosity to other churches is commended in 2 Corinthians 9:13. And such generosity, when it takes the form of ‘loaning’ a shepherd in ministry to others, hopefully expands the regions in which the gospel is proclaimed (2 Cor. 10:15-16). A healthy church member wants to see the gospel advanced and wants to contribute to the health of other congregations if possible. Supporting a leader’s outside ministry is one way to fulfill this desire.
As important as the local church is and as well as being the priority for church members, the author paints a powerful reminder that we must not only think locally, but beyond our walls too. We do not want to build our own little kingdoms. We are in it together as a church. Hence, may we be expositional listeners together who strive to excel in all areas. If we do that, then we are healthy church members of our local churches.