(This is totally my observation as a whole, not directed at any one person)….
As I began to think about what it means to be “committed” to something I obviously looked up the definition.
Here’s what Dictionary.com had to say:
Unfortunately churches are filled with members who have never got off the ground. They have been sitting there gunning their engines, making noise but getting nowhere. They have been planning on it, meaning to, wanting to, trying to, going to, aiming to, hoping to. But tragedy of tragedies, they have never got off the ground. ( Stanley, p. 30)
“Staying on the ground is no longer an option…” I think we stay on the ground because we are safe and comfortable…it’s what we know. It’s what we’re used to. It’s not making us go into the “unknown.”
In Romans 12:1-2 Paul says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters,I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
to give your bodies….
To give something is to expect nothing in return. No compensation. No recognition. A total sacrifice of your time, talents, money, or service.
Under the sacrificial system in the Old Testament the animal to be sacrificed was committed to the priest, was killed and consumed on the altar. The believer’s in this passage (in Romans) were told to present themselves as a “living sacrifice” with the understanding that there is no such thing as “partial sacrifice or a partial commitment”.
It is impossible to be “sort of committed.” You are either committed or you are not committed. It is not possible to be a partial sacrifice. (Revelation 3:16).
A couple of weeks ago in Sunday School a guy told a really neat story that I had never heard. He said there was a story (parable) of a pig and a chicken. When they both commit themselves to breakfast, the chicken is only contributing, the pig has to sacrifice, to be totally committed.
To commit ourselves to God means that we surrender to him, abandon ourselves to him, entrust ourselves to him and place ourselves at his disposal. True commitment is not something that you can take back.
And the same goes for church.
People fail to become involved or to give. The priority for worshiping together as a body of believers falls down, far on the list, as if it lines up with raking the leaves, going grocery shopping, or cleaning the bathrooms (which is NOT my favorite thing to do). They criticize all that is wrong with their church yet they do nothing to contribute to change or even acceptance. They go when it’s convenient and nothing else is “pressing” for their time.
We need to accept the challenge to commit ourselves to responsible membership.” [Jerry Bridges. Spirit of Revival. “Commitment” (April, 1994) p. 29-30]
Commitment to church is deeper than just going to church on Sunday mornings. The reason people don’t get involved is because they don’t feel like they “belong.” Well, the reason they feel that way is because they’ve done nothing to remedy that feeling.
When we first moved to Giddings, I learned (the hard way) that I wasn’t just going to “fit right in”–I had to try. (And I’m still trying to find my place–it’s not easy, even for the minister’s wife). I wasn’t the “one missing puzzle piece” that would make our church complete. The entire congregation is made up of people who all, themselves, are trying to fit. If you don’t “fit” somewhere, pick somewhere else. Don’t leave just because it’s uncomfortable in one place. Move around. Chances are the church is full of open spaces (because of the empty pews, referring back to what Stanley said earlier)….
If you want to get to know people, get involved! And just coming on Sunday morning for one hour is not going to cut it!
One of the excuses I have heard is that a certain church program offered is for “the old people.” Well, the reason it is for “the old people” is because that’s who goes to it. Maybe if you went to it (and committed to it), it wouldn’t just be qualified for the “old” because you were there (and you’re young). Who cares if you’re young and they’re old….it’s about a commitment to the church as a whole and to reading and studying God’s Word, not what age you are.
(But, let me back up and say….you also need to be around people and be involved in areas that will “feed you” as a Christian. I know, for me, I obviously would not attend a Men’s Bible Study, designed specifically for men, because…I’m not a man. You need to find a place that you can be led to further your walk with the Lord, wherever that is. But, don’t hold stereotypes just because of age).
Above all else (and there are plenty of reasons) I think there are 3 main reasons why people are not committed to church.
1.) Society is much more mobile than it used to be. My parents have lived in the same town for 43 years. They have lived in the same house for 32 years. My dad has worked at the same job for 43 years. My mom has had the same dryer for 42 years (sorry, but that has GOT to be a record). Anyway, 40-50-60 years ago people stayed in one place–they didn’t move around like we do now. Paul and I have been married for almost 6 years. We have lived in 4 different towns (1 of them two different times) and have moved 7 times…it’s just who we are. It’s our culture. So, the idea of committing to a church and “planting roots” somewhere is difficult because you never know when you will move again.
2.) The church is no longer the focal point of a town. Where my dad is from the Baptist church is in “downtown,” right off the main road. You can see it if you are passing through town. Everyone knows where the church is. Going to church was a community event. A neighborhood church was exactly that. People didn’t drive 15-30 minutes to get to church–they went to church in their own community. The church has lost its focal point in the community–it is now passed up by the local fast food joints and the big shopping centers.
3.) Materialism is affecting our priorities and commitments. Our society prides itself on living a “simple lifestyle.” But really, do we do that? Our culture’s obsession with material possessions is first and foremost in a lot of people’s (and church’s) minds. (And, I admit, I’m there, too, sometimes). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:33). We must keep our priorities in order…both when we talk about materialism and commitment to the things that matter most.
The local church with all its imperfections is still the Lord’s major avenue through which he accomplishes his work. The church gathers for worship, teaching and fellowship to gain power to carry out the ministry as each member is scattered to their various places of responsibility in the world.
Get committed–beyond the convenience….beyond when your schedule allows it….beyond the comfort–get committed….