Every Saturday morning I meet with a group of some of our church’s young men. Normally, I pick a topic and we read through some selected passages to discuss the text and some practical applications (it is a sort of informal use of the Swedish method of Bible study).
A few weeks ago I asked the group to try and provide some answers to the simple question, “What is a healthy church member?” While we could have definitely said more I was really blessed with our discussion. We did have several discussions of how some of these things practically manifest themselves in our local church but I’ll share the core principles of our discussion.
After about 2 hours of discussion here are a few of the qualities and some commentary on what we discussed:
- Healthy Church Members are Believers. This is a given, but we just thought we’d start with the obvious!
- Healthy Church Members are Regular Attendees. It would not be a stretch to believe that healthy church members regularly attend their local church (Heb 10:23–25).
- Healthy Church Members are Active Attendees. Attendance is not merely enough. Healthy church members do not only regularly attend, but are active participants in service and worship (more on this in the rest of the list). We simply wanted to emphasize that you can regularly attend church and be an unhealthy member when there is a sinful passivity. Looking at Hebrews 10:23–25, we find that active attendees are concerned about encouraging other Christians towards love and good deeds (Heb 10:24).
- Healthy Church Members are Faithful (1 Cor 4:1–2). When active participants regularly attend church they must do so with the right attitude. They need to make every effort to have pure motives of faithful church membership.
- Healthy Church Members Sing. This was an interesting portion of our discussion. It was easy to justify the discipline of corporate singing because it is biblically clear (Eph 5:18–21; Col 3:16). It was a bit more difficult to find explicit passages that encourage the use of song in personal communion with God (closest we could think of was Jas 5:13). Still, it is clear that singing with other Christians is a joyful responsibility of any local church member.
- Healthy Church Members are Concerned for Other Christians. It is clear that Christians have an obligations to one another. Christians are called to care for the spiritual health of other Christians (Gal 6:1–5; 1 Thess 5:12–14). Christians who need help is a wide spectrum. Even healthy Christians need encouragement, but it is the weak or struggling Christian that may especially need the ministry of the local church. Whenever the church gathers, especially on Sunday’s, Christians should enter into the assembly with the intent to be sensitive to other Christians and their need for spiritual encouragement, admonishment, and even correction. This quality also indicates that a healthy church member is intent and serious about practicing Scripture’s “one anothers.”
- Healthy Church Members Study God’s Word in Community. Every Christian should be personally invested in the discipline of Bible intake; but the healthy church member understands that the Bible can and should also be studied in a community context. The church is given gifted teachers and leaders to help facilitate this growth. Healthy church members utilize the church’s gifts and ministries to grow in their understanding of God’s Word (Eph 4:11–16; 2 Tim 2:15).
- Healthy Church Members Pray. The church should be a place of prayer and healthy church members actively pursue prayer in corporate contexts. Several passages indicate the importance of prayer in the life of the believer and how prayer relates to those around them (Eph 6:17–18; Matt 6:5–6; 1 Tim 2:1–7; 1 Thess 5:16–17; Acts 2:42; Phil 4:6).
- Healthy Church Members Exercise their Spiritual Gifts. Every Christian has a spiritual gift (1 Cor 12:7). These gifts are given with the intention to encourage the local church (1 Cor 14:12). A healthy church member realizes that they make contributions to the local church’s wealth when they exercise their gifts. Inversely, the healthy church member realizes the edification they receive when surrounding Christians practice their spiritual gifts. A healthy church member uses their gifts and benefits from the gifts of others.
- Healthy Church Members Participate in Discipleship. It is clear that discipleship takes place within the context of the local church (Matt 28:19–20; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 2). Built within this principle is the priority to make evangelism a part of the Christian life. It is important that healthy church members make discipleship a part of their everyday life.
- Healthy Church Members Submit to Church Leadership. The healthy local church member understands the role of leadership and godly authority in their life (Heb 13:17). They understand that submission to godly leadership is for their spiritual good. They work hard to maintain unity (Eph 4:1) and display humility in their submission to church leadership.
Admittedly, there were a few snags in our conversation. I realized that we had some trouble identifying characteristics of personal godliness. We concluded that the practice of personal spiritual disciplines cannot be dichotomized from the context of a local church. There were also some snags because a lot of our discussions may have revolved around Sunday ministry. I do think it is natural to think of church membership in light of Sunday because that is the primary regular gathering of the local church. Perhaps next time I’d like to explore what church membership looks like in between Sundays.
I was thoroughly encouraged as it exposed where we’re at (as a small group) in our understanding of Scripture. I’m sure there are a plethora of other things can be said, but this is what we came up with. If someone asked you, “what is a healthy church member?” what would you say?