Church researcher and consultant Thom Rainer addresses a growing problem in many churches, mainline and non-denomotional alike. Church member burnout and declining membership.
Rainer begins his little book, I Will, with a short narrative about a divorced, single-mother of three, Heather. Heather joined a church to make a difference, yet she found herself in an unexpected place in her church. It was a place that left her feeling spiritually sick and after four years, she left the church.
It is reported that active church members, like Heather was, are those who attend church events or services at least three times a month. This stands in stark contrast to what was considered to be the norm: three times a week. A lot goes into this change, but for Rainer, it is not enough. He calls for a “church membership revolution.”
Rainer’s book explores why church members are leaving church and presents a solution:
“Instead of saying ‘I want,’ consider saying, ‘I will.'”
Yep, that’s it.
The book is about the church member as a believer in Christ and a functioning member of a faith community. It’s all about the right attitude. It’s all about moving from an attitude of “I want” to an attitude of “I will.” In nine chapters, Rainer explores what this looks like based on his own experiences and research. He bluntly calls out those who think of church membership as a country club membership and corrects that thinking that as church members, “Christ is calling [us] to forsake self and to serve others for His sake.”
This book is a sequel to Rainer’s earlier book I Am a Church Member. The focus of I Will, however, is on what the church member does. Rainer moves from right belief to right practice. Rainer feels that if church members had the right attitude about being a church member, than the “right” doing is organic. Some of these organic, attitude-changing things that church members can do that will result in vital churches include being sacrificial, being prayerful, and being joyful. As Rainer states, “Our attitudes are the foundations of our actions.” The book provides practical ways to achieve in changing one’s attitude about church.
Rainer approaches this subject from his contextual background (President and CEO of Lifeway Resources) which should be taken into account for non-baptist readers. For example, there is very little inclusive language used for God. These are few in comparison to the information that is helpful to the reader, especially if the pastor or lay leader needs someone else’s words to encourage change in their congregation.
This is an accessible resource for small groups, which Rainer identifies as the avenue through which churches will grow.
Those church members who became involved in some type of group in the churches were five times more likely to be active in the church five years later compared to the worship-only attenders.
Rainer cautions the reader not to use this book as a checklist of doing all the right things and pleasing God. Instead, he urges the Christian to let his or her actions flow from their love of God. It is a call to action to make church less a spectator sport and more a response to the grace in our lives.
Rainer provides simple, yet profound illustrations that help the reader connect to the truths that he is exploring. He connects his arguments with Biblical statements, mainly Acts 2:46-47, illustrating how the early church said, “I will.” Each chapter concludes with “Points to Ponder,” which are helpful ways for the reader on his or her own or in a small group setting to explore and discuss Biblical texts and the ideas presented in the chapter.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for a digital review copy.