Rethinking Membership: An Interview with Thom Rainer
People are choosing to join churches as formal members less frequently, according to new research explored by Dr. Thom Rainer in his newest book I Am a Church Member. As president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, Rainer is the perfect person to investigate the reasons why church membership is on the decline and present a new model for churches and their people. He admits that his book presents an "idealized depiction of church membership," but he points out the dangers of approaching the church and the Christian life with a “me first” attitude instead of an “others first” attitude. Rainer is the author of 22 books, and holds a PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he worked for 12 years as the founding Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. Here we talk about the attitudes and concerns of today’s evangelicals toward church and church membership, particularly in light of recent church abuse scandals.
JM: You have written extensively on millennials, both in your book The Millennials and on your blog. We know that many millennials are either walking away from the church altogether or are at least shying away from formal church membership. Did you have this generation in mind when you wrote I Am A Church Member and if so, what do you hope your book will communicate specifically to Millennials?
TR: I did not have the millennials in mind specifically when I wrote I Am a Church Member. But my research on that generation shows they are leaving churches because those churches are focused on themselves. Millennials want to make a difference and to be a part of something that makes a difference. I hope my book communicates to millennials and others how they can have the right mindset to make a difference in a local congregation.