TITLE: I Will: Nine Habits of the Outwardly Focused Christian
AUTHOR: Thom S. Rainer
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B and H Publishing, 2015, (128 pages).
I Am a Church Member" has done it again. In that book, he talks about six implications of what it means to be a Church member. In this latest book, he has decided to move from inside the Church to what a Christian can (or will) do outside the Church. It contains what the author calls "nine traits of outwardly focused Christian." Thom Rainer then sets the tone early in the book to encourage readers to move from a "I Want" Church member to a "I Will" disciple. Beginning with a list of "Top Nine Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests," he helps readers to see that a "I Want" mentality represents an inward focused Christian while a "I Will" means an outwardly focused Christian. It is also an opportunity for Rainer to move from the previous focus on attitude in membership matters to a new purpose in right actions.
The first trait is a "I Will Move" which represents a resolve that right actions must follow from right attitudes. Right attitude means unifying, sacrificial serving, praying, and rejoicing Church member. Right actions mean putting all of these into tangible deeds.
The second trait is "I Will Worship with Others" which puts the community before self when going to Church. Using the Early Church in Acts as an example, he encourages readers to move from "begrudging participation" to "joyous commitment." Worship is not about personal preferences. It is about going beyond personal choices of the small little details of a worship service and embrace the big picture of what it takes for a whole community to worship God together.
The third trait is about "I will grow together with others" which is a call to move away from Lone-Ranger Christianity to a community oriented person. When Church members do ministry and mission work together, they grow closer together. There is a link between healthy communities within the Church and the overall health of the Church. It also helps the Church to reach out to those who are shy and less prominent. Rainer includes some tips about encouraging small group developments.
The fourth trait is about service in "I Will Serve." Healthy churches have a broad base of serving members. Using Jesus' example as one who serves, he highlights one example of how churches can challenge members to refrain from complaining or asking anything from the church and to focus on participating and serving in any possible way. The time has come for churches to encourage more members to say "I will serve."
The fifth trait is outreach in "I Will Go." Beginning with a story of a declining Church, Rainer points out that the reason is how a Church becomes a country club instead of a mission center. Such churches have forgotten that they are to live out Acts 1:8. He even deals with some common objections like not having the gift of evangelism; the job is the pastors; or one being an introvert etc. Outreach can be as simple as prayer and inviting friends to as exciting as going to a far away land as ambassadors of Christ.
The sixth trait is not just about giving but giving generously. The heart of spirituality is not collecting but giving, just like Jesus who gave of himself. For where our treasure is, there our actions will be also. The Church must teach about money and cheerful giving.
Trait seven is a resolve not to be a Church dropout. Having come across so many people who had dropped out of Church due to burnout. Rainer maintains that it is not unavoidable. Serving in Church needs to be done out of an overflow of love for God and for the people. Once it becomes a set of do's and don'ts, it is the beginning of a season of burnout. He makes the following claim: "An inactive church member is an oxymoron. A church dropout is a disobedient Christian." Wow.
The eighth trait is a warning not to let human standards take over biblical guidelines. Calling it a "I Will Avoid the Traps of Churchianity," Rainer shares five major symptoms of Churchianity:
- Church being a spectator sport
- Church being more about me
- Church being about dwelling in its flaws
- Church having low expectations
- Church being cliquish
This book is dynamite when it comes to exploding myths and apathetic behaviour. Which church does not have problems? If a person leaves Church A because of some problem, the same person will find that Church B too will have her own unique set of problems. Perhaps, the key is not about pin-pointing problems but seeing ourselves as part of the solution. This book mentions nine ways to do just that. For any church that are looking to do something different, encourage more membership service, and having a more vibrant Church, putting at least one of the ideas in the book will plant the seed of positive change. As time goes on, with joy, many of the traits will naturally flow. When it happens, it is the Holy Spirit touching the hearts of people and the people responding in obedience to the prompting of God. Great book to give to your leadership, deacons' board, Church board, board of directors, or to your elders.
Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me courtesy of B and H Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.