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The Church Member Check List: Do you fall on the good church member list or the bad church member list?

Checklist

Pastor Chopo Mwanza from Zambia is the latest 9 Marks author to discuss what makes a good and bad church member. This isn’t new information from 9 Marks’ pastor-driven view of congregational members. Thabiti Anyabwile and Jonathan Leeman already have books out discussing the role of church members from a pastor’s perspective. I’m sad to see this brand of American Christianity being practiced in other countries.

Let’s review the list of good and bad church member characteristics. I’ve added a few of my own observations of each characteristic.

Let’s start with what makes a good church member:

Attend church

You cannot build others up if you’re not meeting with them regularly and faithfully. It’s therefore no wonder that those who are regularly absent from the gathering often stagnate in their faith or become members who primarily grumble and complain.

Dear church member, church meetings are not about you or your convenience. Build others up by faithful attendance.

Does a person really stagnate in their faith when they don’t attend church? I do know what stagnates; money going into the offering.

Encouraging people

What motivates the confronting member is not just that someone’s sin has offended them but that the Lord is offended by sin—particularly sin that is unresolved and left to fester and grow (1 Cor. 5). The confronting member confronts out of love for God and love for other believers.

Somehow encouraging and confronting are synonymous. No, thank you.

Prays for others

Typically, praying members learn to talk less to people and more to God about people. They’re a church’s unsung heroes. If prayer drives the church, then the praying member is essential to the health and growth of the church.

What if while you’re praying in a group, you talk to God about someone? Does that count as talking to the people in your group about someone? Because I know I’ve been in situations where someone is praying, and they let loose on information that I didn’t need to know about. That person would fit in the “bad church member” category listed below.

Serves the church

Great comfort comes from knowing you have teammates fighting with you and encouraging you as you go. People who are able to but don’t serve in the church tend to discourage the rest of the body.

I’ll be the first to sign up for the “encouraging” service hours. Since encouraging is synonymous with confronting, I’ll have plenty of serving to do. How many hours a week are considered enough for confronting encouraging service? I wouldn’t want to discourage everyone.

Shows patience

All this means we have to learn to endure with each other’s weaknesses and shortcomings. We have to learn to forgive without holding grudges and disciple one another with all patience. A patient member graciously puts up with other people’s failures. They realize that no church is perfect—and as a result, they are joyfully patient.

Yes, the perfect church member will joyfully put up with anything that the church leadership does. After all, no one is perfect.

Now that we know what makes a good church member, let’s review what makes a bad church member:

The armchair critic

Armchair critics are bent on finding fault with what others are doing while doing nothing themselves. They’re apathetic to things that are going on and are disappointed when you succeed. They’re quick to condemn and slow to commend. They falsely place themselves as judge, and you never hear them admit wrong. Cynics can never be pleased nor satisfied.

I’m assuming we’re talking about members who are critical of leadership. What if a person is being a “good member” by confronting observed sin? Is the leadership able to openly accept this love by the member or is the member viewed as a critic?

Never attends church

Non-attending members are an oxymoron. They don’t want to serve and use their gifts to edify other believers, and by not attending they actually remove themselves from the platform where they can minister and be ministered to. Over time, they harm the unity and mission of the church.

In other words, leadership has no control over the non-attending members, and money isn’t coming in. How does someone actually harm the unity of the church if they’re not even there? I would think more harm to the unity would be done by those who are actually attending….because they’re there!

Divisive spirit

Divisive people are often driven by a desire to be in charge. They want their opinions heard and implemented—with near total agreement from everyone else. Divisive people expect you to consult them about an issue, and if you don’t not consult them in particular, they rise [sic] lash out.

The ironic thing about people with a divisive spirit is that they sometimes have a sincere concern about the church’s well-being. 

I’m not sure what the difference is between someone who is a critic and someone who is divisive, but apparently neither are good (even if they sometimes have a sincere concern).

The meddler and gossip

Meddlers often gossip. They’re in the business of gathering information about people and their affairs with the purpose of sharing it with others. They have an inquisitiveness masked as care and concern, when in actual fact they simply cannot mind their own business.

Is a person who asks questions considered a meddler or gossip? Will members receive honest answers to honest questions or will their motives be scrutinized?

At one time I would have seen myself as a good church member. I didn’t question leadership decisions, I went to church and faithfully gave my 10% every Sunday, I prayed for the church, and I spent countless hours in service. Then one day, I started asking questions about the direction the church was heading and how money was being spent. The answers I received were pretty much, if you don’t like it, this may not be the best place for you. After everything I had given to the church, I found myself on the bad church member list because I wasn’t willing to toe the pastor party line.

Where do you fall on this list? Have you found yourself also moving from the good member list to the bad member list?

13 thoughts on “The Church Member Check List: Do you fall on the good church member list or the bad church member list?”

  1. What strikes me is how his descriptions of “bad” church members can also describe some leaders in the church. “You never hear them admit wrong.” “Driven by a desire to be in charge. They want their opinions heard and implemented – with near total agreement from everyone else.” “They’re in the business of gathering information about people…” (like who serves, tracking Sunday attendance, tracking small group membership, etc.)

    Not that all leaders are like this, but this article from Mr. Mwanza would be a great sermon illustration for taking the plank out of your own eye.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Wild Honey said: “What strikes me is how his descriptions of “bad” church members can also describe some leaders in the church. “You never hear them admit wrong.” ‘

    That is so important to note. Are the rules the same for the leaders as the congregants? If not, why not?
    Good comment, Wild Honey!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The church should be a “safe space” for the Matthew 5:3-11 people but has frequently become a dangerous space where there is spiritual abuse/malpractice.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. The problem with checklists is that they tend to be legalistic. The next question is why?

    Why are people not attending church? Is it because the sermons beat them down week after week? Is it because the cliques are established and they feel like outsiders?

    Why are people not being encouraging? Again, is it because they are beaten up and downtrodden week after week as horrible sinners and they don’t feel like first-class citizens in the kingdom?

    Why aren’t people showing patience? When the church decides to discipline someone, do they show patience? Is Biblical Counseling about showing patience, or immediately identifying a sin pattern and continuing to impatiently rail against someone? How is patience being modeled by the spiritual leadership?

    Are people armchair critics because they initially approached leadership and their concerns fell on deaf ears? Were their concerns acknowledged and answered or ignored? Did they hear other “more important” members bring up those concerns and have them dealt with appropriately?

    Are people being divisive or being concerned? To the abusive pastor, it would be considered “divisive” for the victims and their families to disobey the pastor’s order to keep silent, but is that really divisive?

    “Gossip” needs to be redefined in the Evangelical church. There’s a difference between telling the truth about what happened to us, telling personal truths about others, and telling lies or unconfirmed stories about others. For example, I once found out “through the grapevine” that a close relative of mine was engaged. That’s because someone in the know couldn’t keep his mouth shut and told a third party. The news spread and we ended up hearing before the couple was ready to tell. That’s gossip. Megan and JoAnna telling what happened to them is NOT gossip, despite the “hurt” it may cause. The stories told around them in their church WAS gossip. Spreading rumors is gossip. We cannot define gossip by hurt feelings. Sometimes the truth hurts.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. How does someone actually harm the unity of the church if they’re not even there?

    Yeah, both lists have some weird projection going on about people who literally just didn’t come. They are ‘harming the unity’ or refusing to serve (which seems most important here because they shoved that thing about being ministered as an after thought!) or complaining…or maybe they’re home sick or have a job or just needed a rest that week.

    These lists are so exhausting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Apparently they would rather have guilt-driven attendance and service… than to have people who attend and serve out of LOVE for God and others. If haranguing and berating their members is the only way they can think of to improve their church, then things are in a sorry state.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not a particularly helpful list. There’s far too much nuance to the issues here. Sure, they can be a starting place, but these categories should probably be more of a “left up to interpretation” or “case by case” system.

    As someone else commented, someone not attending church could be for a multitude of reasons. Yes, there’s truth to the idea that becoming a member and then not attending is dangerous for the individual (as they’re not partaking in the perscribed manner in which the body should commune) and dangerous to the body (as the body is not being fed by the individual. A la the hand isn’t able to mend the wound on a leg).

    However, I have a friend who won’t be able to make church for the next few weeks due to a medical issue (and financial). That lack of attendance is likely not what 9marks is trying to point out, but that’s… kind of the problem. Trying to write some sort of ESO filled article that will draw clicks or make its rounds in search engines, I feel, is pretty dangerous.

    Also, just an aside, this reminds me of a time my church wanted to go through a book for community groups and it basically had the problems you present here. It never really dug into the meat of what it was talking about, and therefore lacked so much nuance it turned out to be self-defeating. There were two chapters side-by-side that ended up contradicting themselves because of this.

    Sometimes, I feel like there’s too much dependence on these SEO slaved programs and 150-200 paged books that merely skim a topic rather than properly address the issues they wanna cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kathi

    Really ejoyed your comments after each check on the list.

    Attend church
    “Does a person really stagnate in their faith when they don’t attend church? I do know what stagnates; money going into the offering.”

    Encouraging people
    “Somehow encouraging and confronting are synonymous. No, thank you.”

    Shows patience

    “Yes, the perfect church member will joyfully put up with anything that the church leadership does. After all, no one is perfect.”

    Like

  9. Kathi

    This sounds like my experience with church.

    “At one time I would have seen myself as a good church member. I didn’t question leadership decisions, I went to church and faithfully gave my 10% every Sunday, I prayed for the church, and I spent countless hours in service. Then one day, I started asking questions about the direction the church was heading and how money was being spent.”

    Well… How foolish of me to ask questions. 😦

    Like

  10. You really know how humble and service focused the leadership is based upon when you start asking questions. If your questions aren’t taken seriously, ignored, or are met with hostility, it’s time to let your feet and money walk out the door.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Is c’hurch membership truly Biblical based on the original texts of Holy Scriptures? And since there are thousands of individual denominations who claim to know a jesus of sorts as their c’hurch by-laws claim, are the only way to eternal salvation, how does the individual truly know that they are the only c’hurch one must attend in truly knowing christ?

    And if Jesus, our Master, Teacher, Good Shepherd, our Head, our Rock, and our LORD and SAVIOR, were still walking these dirt roads, to which local c’hurch denomination would HE become a “m’ember” of?

    The baptist, the presbyterian, the lutheran ((quote: “The word and works of god is quite clear, that women were made to be either wives or prostitutes.”)…a c’hurch denomination named after this individual who clearly did not know the JESUS of our Scriptures, for HE never spoke such wickedness.) ), the catholic, the reformed, the Methodist, the calvinist, the charismatic, the pentecostal, the assembly of god, the non-denominational, the united c’hruch of christ, the congregational religious system, and a host of denominations that I have never heard of……

    all in all, claim to know a jesus, better than their religious competitors?

    So exactly, who, pray tell, has the literal and logical truth as to Who Jesus Christ really is?

    And did our LORD Jesus Christ really come to this earth, via a miracle, to create a myriad of religious denominations designed to enslave people to their particular doctrines, apart from knowing Who He really is? To enslave, conquer, imprison, and to dominate pew sitters into a religious system whose mission is to make them (the pa’stor man/woman and its l’eadership minions) appear successful, super spiritual, highly k’nowledgable and overflowing with an earthly wisdom that mimics this world rather than Christ, is but the hallmark of the visible c’hurch system here on earth. Jesus specifically said that “wolves would enter this religious system, posing as saints, to kill and destroy those who truly know and follow Him.”

    The safest place here on this planet for the evil and the wicked religious folks, I believe, is the visible c’hurch system who love to lord it over others, and who love to abuse and use people for their own religious fame, glory, and monetary gain……perhaps Jesus, in His anger, would make fodder of the c’hurch systems of this day, with His hyssop whip and “righteous anger,” for He did not tolerate, nor embrace sin as the religious folks of our day love to preach, teach, embrace, and live out themselves.

    Many of us who have literally ran out of the religious systems (c’hurches) of our day, never to look back as Lot’s wife did, turning into a pillar of salt, will be condemned by the “religious spirit” of this age because we know Jesus as our LORD and Savior, and will not replace Him in our lives, with a counterfeit christ/anti-christ.

    Joining a c’hurch system who does not “practice what they preach” is like wedding into a dysfunctional family system…….when sharing with my r’eligious-faithful c’hurch attending, divorced sister-in-law, that I enjoy listening to Yanni as I travel or work throughout my day, her response was “Yanni is new age music and you “should not” be listening to him.” Then, while staying in her home on a special occasion, I observed her “video repertoire” in her cabinet, containing movies that included nudity, inappropriate sexual scenes, swearing, violence, abuses of every kind, just plain filthiness of every sort (2 Timothy 3:1-5a). These movies were purchased by the hands, minds, and souls of both, the c’hurch leadership husband and wife BEFORE they were divorced, so the “male or female weakness thing” does not condemn one gender over the other here as in 2 Timothy 3:6-7……..the male can be equally weak where the “sin condition” is concerned.

    So r’elgious folks can condemn certain “sins” ……pretty sure listening to a “Yanni CD is not sinning,” because they love to condemn those they secretly want to lord it over (hate), all the while viewing movies that are full of unrighteousness-filth over every wicked kind, paints the true portrait of the institutionalized c’hurch system.

    As stated before in one of my comment threads…….”I would rather worship and fellowship with a prostitute, who is born again of the Spirit of our LORD, than a c’hurch l’eader or member whose lord is legalism and hypocrisy.” That statement perhaps would offend “martin luther” the so called “reformer.”

    The True Reformer, Jesus Christ, I believe, would not be welcome in the religious systems throughout the ages.

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  12. Do you fall on the good church member list or the bad church member list?

    That sounds so much like that line from The Wizard of Oz
    “Are you a good witch of a bad witch?”

    Like

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