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:
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.
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.
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 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?