Westminster Seminary California
 
 
A Pastor’s Reflections: Normal Is Best
VFT

One of the questions I’ve received over the years is, “What type of church member do you look for as a pastor?” My answer may seem odd, but I’ve always responded, “The normal kind.” What do I mean? Over the years I’ve encountered various types of people in the church, many of whom are given to extremes. Some have been all about family uber-alles, that is, family trumps everything in life including Christ and the means of grace. “Please come to worship,” I’d say, only to hear, “Oh we can’t, we’re going camping this weekend—we need to spend time together as a family.” “Please come to Sunday School,” I’d say, only to hear, “Oh we can’t, we believe that the head of the household should only teach the children.”

Another one that I’ve encountered is the theological axe-grinder, that is, the person who is enamored and smitten by one doctrine. Everything is about this one doctrine—regardless of the issue, the person always raises questions about, say usury (lending money at exorbitant interest). This person has read all there is to read about usury, always wants to bring up the subject in Sunday School, and goes around the church telling people they shouldn’t loan money or borrow it because it violates Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.”

Another type of church member is the “ghost member.” This type of person comes to church, shows sign of interest, joins, attends somewhat regularly for a few months, and then drops of the face of the earth. Phone calls, e-mails, letters, all prove to be ineffective. I suppose I could have showed up at his home unannounced, but I questioned the wisdom of such a move. Nevertheless, this person eventually would get erased off church rolls because he simply disappeared. Keep in mind, I’ve had some very churched people do this—the son of a NAPARC minister in one case. That is, this person was well aware of the nature of church membership—he wasn’t a new Christian or unaware of Reformed church polity—he grew up with it.

Whenever I found myself encountering these various types of church members, I would pray (seriously), “Lord, please send us some normal church members. Please send us some families that attend regularly, listen to the sermons, participate in church life, and don’t have any axes to grind.” As a pastor, I never realized how much of a gem such church members could be.

Ask yourself, “What kind of church member am I?” Am I a source of unnecessary grief to my pastor and elders? Do I attend church regularly? Do I offer to help when I can? Do I unnecessarily take up too much of the pastor’s and elders’ time with being overly concerned with my hobby doctrine? Middle of the road, not given to extremes, is a wonderful thing when it comes to being a good church member.