18 November, 2006

Can I Bring Up the "C" Word?

"What do you mean, 'I guess I do?!"

Almost every pastor I know wants to talk about this topic frequently, but they fear that mentioning it will bring about a revolt. The word or topic? "Commitment."
More precisely, the lack of it.
Most pastors think it is only a problem in the church where they pastor. I used to think this myself. But over the years as I have talked with friends in the ministry, I have found it is pretty much a universal problem. In fact, it is not just a problem that effects the small church either. This problem is one that is symptomatic of the society we live in. We live in a world of "no (or low) commitment." That's one reason why we see divorce rates so high. When I was growing up, a man's word was his bond. A handshake was better than a written contract.
Sadly, it means nothing today, and neither does a person's word. I am astonished at the number of times I will see or speak to someone 90 minutes before church time and they will tell me that they will see me at church... but they do not show up. On several occasions this has happened and I later find out that the person intentionally "mislead" me, as they were on their way out to dinner, or a movie or shopping, and they just did not want to tell me the truth.
It's sad when we not only are not willing to come to church, but we resort to telling lies rather than being upfront enough about it to just say, "I'm not going tonight."

I recently ordered a book and just started reading it called, "Building High Commitment in A Low Commitment World." Right off the bat, in his introduction, Bill Hull comes out swinging. He writes:
Can a person be a good Christian and not be highly committed to Christ and his church?
NO! There, I said it!
However, if you cross out good, you could say it is possible for a person to be a mediocre, disobedient, lousy, stagnant Christian and not be committed to Christ and his church.

I have to say, that at least in my church, the lack of commitment is the number one problem we face. Not just commitment to the church, but to Christ and HIS church. I really cannot fathom how people can seperate the two. In the church where I pastor, at any given service, the vast majority of the time, over 50% of our "regular" attendees are absent. It's almost like there is a rotation of who will attend each week. Some have fallen into the routine of coming to church about once every 4 to 5 weeks, and they are absolutely convinced that their spiritual walk is strong. (I wonder what they would be like if they ever discovered what their lives could be like if they would really commit to Christ and His church?)
Of course, the poor attendance naturally leads to poor giving. While there is a core group that faithfully pays their tithe and offering, most throw tokens at the Lord when they happen to show up. I recently sat with an individual from the church and showed them that their annual giving to the church was less money than they spent for dinner for two and a movie. Something is sadly out of balance there. There are a good number of people who toss a dollar or five dollars into the offering plate, and think they have done a great thing. Assuming that person came to every service we have in a year (3 a week) and gave this way at all services, the one giving $1 would have given $156 in a year, and the one giving $5 will have given $780. That may sound like a lot of money, but contrast it to people shelling out $600 for a Playstation, not to mention the games they will buy throughout the year. And the truth is, most of those people do not dome 3 times a week! We need to ask ourselves, which investment means more to our children?

People often talk about the lack of power in the church, and how that they'd like to see miracles and more people saved, and the signs and wonders that the Bible speaks of. The problem, as I see it, is not in God; and it's not in the pastor's; but rather it is in a people who want the full-time blessings of God on a part-time commitment to Him. I hear all the time from people that we need a revival. I will agree with that statement; however the revival I am talking about is not the same as what they speak of. Before God is going to pour out His Spirit with that kind of revival, there must be a personal revival, where we all make serving the Lord I highest aim and priority. It must be a revival on the individual level where we repent of our sin of neglect and sloughfulness and where we re-dedicate ourselves to advancing the Kingdom of God on this earth.

I've heard people say for years that they were going to do just that... but their word has been worthless. When will we really mean it and get back to a commitment, a marriage to Christ?


Libby said...

How long would one keep his job if he showed up only 20% of the time? Coming once in 5 weeks isn't even that! That % only covers 1 service per week. How effective could one BE on a job if he/ she showed up only 20% of the time? Yet people think "God's o.k with that. HE knows my heart!" Absolutely HE knows their hearts! They are sinful and NOT committed to God!

David W. Reish said...

What gets me is how some who have no committment to the church are the ones who complain the most, expect the most of the pastor and the church and takes up most of the pastors time on the phone or in meetings. How would the church respond if the pastors just showed up once a month but collected their compensation package each week?

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

I understand exactly what you are saying there, Darrell. But as one who is in the "pew" I would have to raise a few questions myself:

1) What exactly does the "leadership" want me to commit to?

2) Other than "proving my spirituality"--or lack thereof, why should I commit "more" to this local congregation? What commitment does this church want to make to me..in return for my commitment to it?

3) Is this church really wanting to develop and maintain "community" as well as "commitment"?

Darrell said...

Phil, I see where you are going, but notice my words carefully: "committed to Christ and HIS church."
The problem for so many today is that they are looking for what the church is going to do for them, rather than realizing that they are in fact the church. The sad truth is that the vast majority of those who go to church are not asking questions like you ask, but rather they are just looking for a place to show up once in awhile to do their religious duty and to appease their conscience. They are in no way looking for a place to be involved in the service of God, but rather are looking for a place to be comfortable, have their needs met and not be challenged to become anything more. The 2006 American church is not interested in serving; they want to be served.

Darrell said...

Ruth is having trouble with Blogger today (I know that no one else ever has trouble with Blogger) and she posted this over on Libby's site since she could not get it on mine. I brought it here for her.

ruthrap said...

Libby, I can't leave a comment on Darrell' s, so I'm using you! You hit the nail on the head when you said people don't want to commit to God! I believe that's more what it's about than making a committment to a church..I think when one commits to God and totally seeks after Him, then the committment to church will follow. Low attendance at church has something to do with lack of committing to change in our lives and living up to a life that would exclude a lot of the garbage that we have let seep into it because we feel other things are more important than going to church and worshiping God! I really believe that if every one would do a little "soul searching" and truly be honest with themselves, they would quit coming up with lame excuses for not going to church on Sunday and face up to the fact that the blame lies on them and their hearts, not on the church or the pastor or who may have offended them in the next row at a service! I'm not pointing fingers or comdenming anyone for not going to church every time the door is open..that's not what it's all about, it's about showing gratitude and doing what we were created to do and that's worshiping God..plain and simple! I know what is is to stay away from church...did it for years and I know the reason why...it's because I didn't want to commit to God and didn't want to give up things in my life that had no business being there. I was wrong and I'll be the first to admit. All I can say is that the word committment to some sounds threatening and many are simply afraid of it..and with committment the first thing people think of is what they are losing not what they are gaining! When you commit to God there is much more to gain than to lose...it's just a matter of convincing people of that fact! That's our job and we sure have our work cut out for us as you well know!