One of the joys of reading 52+ books a year is that you come across books that you have never read and they quickly become favorites. This is the case for me with Thabiti M. Anyabwile’s book, What is a Healthy Church Member? This book is part of the 9Marks series that flow out of Mark Devers book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.
Anyabwile puts together a powerful exhortation to the believer of a local church to be a contributor to the positive health of their church. Not only is this an exhortation, but also a practical guide of how to do it. This is masterfully done in 10 short chapters. Overall, the book is less than 120 pages! Yet, it is packed with great practical advice to the Christian.
Let me break down the chapters one by one.
Chapter 1: A Healthy Church Member is an Expositional Listener
Usually, we think of expositional preaching, but never of what the listener to that type of preaching should be doing in response! Anyabwile says that expositional listening is, “listening for the meaning of a passage of Scripture and accepting that meaning as the main idea to be grasped for our personal and corporate lives as Christians.”Expositional listening has several benefits, but I will only state one so as not to reveal the whole book! One benefit is that it cultivates a hunger for God’s Word. It gives us a “clear ear with which to hear God.” There are several ways to cultivate expositional listening. One way is to meditate on the pastor’s sermon throughout the week. Another is to talk about the sermon with friends and pray that application is made from the text preached. Most of all it is a call to humility. Growth in this discipline requires a humble spirit before the Lord and his people.
Chapter 2: A Healthy Church Member is a Biblical Theologian
This might sound scary or even unbiblical. But, the truth is that it is easy and very biblical! So, what is theology? It is the study of God! That means that when you read God’s Word you are developing your own theology of Him. Hopefully, if you are a good expositional listener and your pastor has sound teaching, then your theology will be sound too. How then does this promote health in a Christian? It deepens our understanding of and facility with the gospel. The biblical theologian follows the steps of Christ and His apostles by mastering the unity displayed in Scripture, seeing Christ and the gospel throughout the Old and New Testaments. There are again many ways to cultivate this habit in your life, but here are two good ways. First, adopt the New Testament’s attitude toward the Old Testament. The Old Testament isn’t something to be thrown out now that there is a New one! Instead, look for how the New clarifies, unveils, or amplifies what the Old Testament taught. Secondly, know and agree to support your local church’s statement of faith. If you can in good conscience agree with the statement commit to studying the doctrine that it teaches about the Bible!
Chapter 3: A Healthy Church Member is Gospel Saturated
“The greatest need in the world today is the gospel.” This means that the greatest need in the Church is the gospel as well! We must be saturated in it! This means that the Christian must know it well. We need to preach it to ourselves daily! It increases our knowledge of the message, our affection for the Savior, and our skill in sharing that message with others. Guard it well. “Fight for and protect the apostolic gospel delivered and preserved in the pages of Scripture.”
Chapter 4: A Healthy Church Member is Genuinely Converted
If you consider yourself a Christian you must know the work of God’s grace in your own soul. Understand what biblical conversion is. It is the “radical turn from an enslaved life of pursuing sin to a free life of pursuing and worshipping God. Conversion isn’t just a decision, it’s a true change of life. This means that we need to know our own souls well. We also must be bearing good fruit. If we are genuinely converted we will love God and His people and we will be continuing to grow in the faith.
Chapter 5: A Healthy Church Member is a Biblical Evangelist
Be a faithful evangelist by presenting the gospel truth about who God is, who men are, what sin is, who Christ is, what He has done about sin, and what we must do about what He has done. Know and teach that Christ is the only way of salvation. Good evangelism will call the hearer to repentance and faith in Christ. Share the good news! It isn’t rocket science. After all, God used Peter, a fisherman, to bring many souls to Christ. If God can use proud Peter he can sure use us!
Chapter 6: A Healthy Church Member is a Committed Member
The Believer should be devoted to their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a biblical idea after all (Acts 2:42). A devoted member attends church regularly. Not just any church, but a local church that you plan on serving at long-term. A committed member bears others burdens walking side by side with them through trials, tribulation, and pain. They also help build up or encourage the body in the growth of sanctification.
Chapter 7: A Healthy Church Member Seeks Discipline
“Discipline is about education and learning, order and growth.” There are two types of discipline in the church. Positive and corrective discipline. Both are required for being a healthy church member. This requires a spirit of meekness when receiving the Word of God. Accept the Bible as true, that it is the only sufficient authority for shaping our lives, and that it must govern how we feel and think. Humbly accept correction from others as well. You might be quick to correct someone else, but realize that you are not perfect either. You need correction to grow just as much as someone else needs correction to grow. Above all, rejoice in seeing God’s hand working in the local body through the growth, repentance, and restoration of those who receive the grace of discipline.
Chapter 8: A Healthy Church Member is a Growing Disciple
Have a pervasive concern for your own personal growth and the growth of other members of your local church. The Lord has given gifted men to the church (pastors and elders) for the purpose of growth (Eph.4:11-13). They are to equip the saints for the work of ministry. They desire others to grow in holiness. Looking like Christ more and more is what growth looks like. This means your knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of Him will grow too. Develop a dependency on Christ, the Bible, and others in the local church. Don’t stop growing!
Chapter 9: A Healthy Church Member is a Humble Follower
Have the right attitude towards the leaders of your church. Honor the elders, those who lead, as well as those who are older and wiser than you! Openly love the elders. Show them that they are doing a good job and encourage them because if they are honest it means a lot to them! Most of all be teachable. Don’t be stiff-necked to the teaching of the leaders in your church. Recognize that their instruction is meant to be gentle, kind, and for your good. Pray for knowledge of the truth and protection from false teaching. The leaders of your church are God’s gift to you for continued growth. Obey them. Follow their example. Pray for them. Support them.
Chapter 10: A Healthy Church Member is a Prayer Warrior
“In prayer, as children united with Christ, our advocate and high priest, the heir of all things, we stand before God receiving a full hearing.” Pray constantly. Pray for the leaders of the church. Pray for all the saints. Pray for the government (gasp!). Pray for those who persecute the Bride of Christ. Prayer doesn’t have to be a well-polished speech. It is pouring out your heart to the God of the Universe to work out His will in your life. Make a plan to pray.
All in all, this is a great book. Anyabwile has really put together a helpful tool for any Christian to become a healthy member. It truly has benefited me and will benefit so many others for God’s glory.