July 26th, 2008
Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What is a Healthy Church Member. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008. 117 pp. $12.99.
I would consider this book to be the third book in an ongoing series about a healthy church from IX Marks ministry located in Washington, DC. The first book was entitled 9 Marks of a HealthyChurch and the second book was What is a HealthyChurch. Thabiti (thu-bee-tee) Anyabwile (onya-bee-wee-l-ay) seeks to answer the next logical question from these first two books in What is a Healthy Church Member.
Thabiti is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman Islands. Before you might think that that is an awesome place to be called to pastor, I think you should know something. I have heard from his own lips, at the Band of Bloggers Conference, that he does not like the beach! It is amazing when God calls you to a place that you would never want to vacation at while everyone else in the known world would love to go there. For the record, I am with Thabiti on this one…I am not fond of the beach, either!
Summary of What is a Healthy Church Member?
As I said above, this book offers insight into how a church member can best participate in the local church. Through 10 chapters marks, Thabiti shows how the original 9 marks of the healthy church must be under-girded by the church member. In his foreward, Mark Dever states that “living the Christian life is not something that we’re supposed to do alone.” This would include each individual member of the church as well as the church staff and leadership. Unfortunately, many of us build invisible walls so that no one may help us (or know when to help us) when we need it.
Mark one is expositional listening whereby the church member is encouraged to listen to God’s purpose in His word for that week. Mark two exhorts the reader to understand biblical theology and its importance in protecting them from heretical beliefs. The third mark is a challenge to live a life saturated with the gospel. Marks four and five deal with evangelism and true conversion as integral to our understanding of who is and who is not a true believer in Christ.
Mark six offers an apologetic for making membership in the local church a very serious concern for all believers-especially new believers. Corrective and formative discipline is the seventh mark while mark eight deals with the spiritual growth of all members. Mark nine offers ways that the church member can support the staff and leadership of his or her local church. Mark ten, as a bonus, is that every member should be prayerful. All of these marks assume that the reader and/or church member is a born-again, regenerate believer.
Critique of What is a Healthy Church Member?
Perhaps the only negative critique of this book is that the author (as well as the series) assumes a particular church polity. That is made somewhat obvious throughout this book. However, that does not mean that these “marks” cannot be implemented in other churches that hold to a different church polity. It may prove somewhat difficult in some cases, but they are all still doable.
The positives are plentiful in this book. I would begin with the manner in which Thabiti writes the book. You get the feeling as though you are in a church membership class or a theology of church membership class at a Bible College or seminary. He anticipates any questions and offers answers to a few objections along the way.
He also offers quite a few suggestions for resources if you would like to read further into one of the marks. By the way, I love that the chapters are not chapters. Rather, they are called marks. It helps to divide them for easier consumption. This also aids in the studying of the book. Thabiti included questions after the discussion of each mark entitled “Further Reflections.” This book could easily be used for a new members class or even a youth group study to help teens understand what is to be expected from them as church members in the local church.
If you have read the previous two books, then this book is a must read. If you are in the ministry at a local church, then this book is a must read. I would have multiple copies as a pastor to give away to new members whether you have adopted the IX Marks approach or not. If the members of the local church would even read snippets of this book and work to incorporate some of what they read, I believe the local church would look more like a body of Christ than what most of them do now.