Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile

Every year, I am striving to encourage our elders at Cornerstone Bible Church to pass out a book to everyone in the church. Because we are starting a new series on the church, I wanted to give out a book that would encourage and help people discover their rightful place in the body of Christ. That is why I chose What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile.

I first picked up this book in 2008 right after it was published. I had been told by someone that he had a chapter in the book on listening to preaching, so I was very interested in picking it up as I was writing my doctoral dissertation on that same subject (my dissertation was later turned into a book, Helping Johnny Listen). What I found when I picked up his book was a very succinct, direct, and needed message on what it means to live the Christian life. Yes, you read that right. I believe what he calls "a healthy church member" is really a call for someone to live out their Christian life as the Bible says they should. I believe he sees an intrinsic link between a Christian and a Church Member. So much so that he says,
"Whether your Christian life began yesterday or thirty years ago, the Lord's intent is that you play an active and vital part in his body, the local church. He intends for you to experience the local church as a home more profoundly wonderful and meaningful than any other place on earth. He intends for his churches to be healthy places and for the members of those churches to be healthy as well" (14)
Don't let his name fool you, this book is very easy to read. It is well-written and covers a variety of topics. He states that a Healthy Church Member is an . . .

  • Expositional Listener
  • Biblical Theologian
  • Gospel Saturated
  • Genuinely Converted
  • Biblical Evangelist
  • Committed Member
  • Seeks Discipline
  • Growing Disciple
  • Humble Follower
  • Prayer Warrior

There was one chapter that I wanted to look at more closely. It is the chapter on being genuinely converted. I really appreciated that he included this chapter, even though my guess is that many people will struggle with this one. We have so watered down the gospel in our churches that anyone who prays a prayer to "ask Jesus into their heart" is automatically assumed to be a Christian. But we live in a world where believing in Jesus is much too easy. I forget who it was who originally coined this term, but we have many "unregenerate Christians" in the church today. They say all the right things, but they have never been regenerated. They have never been converted.

In many ways, I wish this would have been set as the first chapter of the book. We need more warnings like this. He defines conversion as "the radical turn from an enslaved life of pursuing sin to a free life of pursuing and worshiping God. Conversion is a change of life, not merely a decision" (49). He then proceeds to ask several questions as evidences that conversion might have taken place. For instance, he asks whether the patter of your life is light or darkness? Good question. He asks for you to evaluate your love for other Christians.

I would highly recommend this particular chapter and this book. The good news is that if you were at CBC this past week, you received a free copy. There are a few left and will be available this coming Sunday. If you live around us, come on by and pick up your free copy. In closing, let me share a few of his closing words.
"It is entirely possible to read this book with the spirit of individualism. You may finish this book and think, 'Let me get to work on me.' And to be sure, there is a great deal of growth we all need to make, and by God's grace will make, until Christ returns. But this book is about the church, the whole of Christ's body in a particular place. Much is said about your role and my role in it, but you and I are meant for and belong to all the others who assemble as God's people (Rom. 12:5). So, the best way to put this book into practice is to do so with the partnership, support, and love of other Christians in your local church. Don't be a 'Lone Ranger Christian,' exclusively or myopically concerned with you. Lock arms with others who love the Lord and love his church and together grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (116-117).

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