I recently wrote about Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best-selling Purpose-Driven Life, and his saying: ‘Healthy things grow.” My blog identified that church health is related more to the growth in maturity of the members and attendees than numerical metrics such as attendance and giving.
By Ken Behr
Just as every pastor should be concerned about church health, every true believer should be interested as well in how to be a “healthy church member.” As we focused on the local church in the last blog, I thought I would address the topic as well from a local church perspective.
Partnership rather than membership
A few years ago, I had the privilege of being the pastor of a church that had decided to intentionally discontinue talking about “membership” in favor of encouraging those who were attending to become “partners” in the church ministry. I found that while there was some misgiving about the change, the idea of partnering in the particular ministry calling with the local pastor and paid staff was refreshing for many — as well as challenging.
While membership suggests a sense of benefits, partnership connotes a supportive relationship that includes responsibilities and obligations. Each neighborhood church is the unique expression of the local ministry of Jesus Christ and varies in its particular calling and ministry. While there are unique differences, every local church has a responsibility to make disciples just as each pastor has the responsibility to lead, teach, equip, protect and admonish the congregation.
No pastor can successfully lead the church without committed, Christ-like disciples that come alongside him or her and take on the responsibilities, ministries and assignments that God has uniquely gifted each one. In Chapter 12 of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul describes first the gifts and then the offices of the church. While these are all unique and distributed through the will of God to individuals, they are for the benefit of all as all function collectively as one Body of Christ.
The Great Commandment and Great Commission
To be a “healthy” part of the local church, each individual needs to first understand his or her relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They then begin to grow through weekly preaching and the daily reading of the Word of God. The bible describes this as our “spiritual food” and necessary for spiritual development. In time, each healthy church member understands that the Great Commandment (to love one another) and the Great Commission (to make disciples) was not given to the few, but to all believers. Each healthy church member shares this responsibility, knowing that God provides opportunities for us to minister individually, as well as corporately.
Sharing in the responsibility by participating financially, being faithful in attendance, volunteering in ministry, leading where appropriate, and supporting the local pastor in his or her unique calling is the best way for both the individual — and the local church — to grow.
Healthy church members create and grow healthy churches!
Ken Behr is the executive director of Faith Dialogue, a faith-based nonprofit in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.