22 June, 2010
What Happened to "Commitment"?
It seems that one of the most dangerous subjects that a pastor can preach on now days, it is "Commitment." Say the "C" word and walls go up, defense systems engage, claws come out and blood pressures rise. We can preach on the most controversial subjects and have a much more receptive audience than when the idea of commitment is approached. What I've come to understand that it's not just church, but in 2010, it is pretty difficult to get people to commit to anything... except a party. Those you on Facebook, give this a try: Create an "Event" (mind you, not a party) and invite your friends and associates to that event. Especially if that event is centered around a church activity, I can pretty much guarantee you that your responses will reflect far more "may be attending" than those who will actually commit to attending. And when that event comes, at least one third to one half of those who said they will come, will not show up. Their word (commitment) means nothing. We as a people have completely lost the concept of commitment. We see it in marriages, where now, statistics reflect that roughly 40-50% of the marriages in the United States will end in divorce. (What happened to "till death do we part"?) Recently, I wanted to test out my theory of commitment, so when I was supposed to meet with a group of people, I first did the Facebook thing. Then, the day before the event, I texted each one of those kids who had said they will come and asked them, "Are you going to be there?" Several said yes, but almost half said, "I'll try" or "If nothing comes up." In other words, if no better offers come my way. That is the trend of society today. I was not raised that way. I was raised that your word was your bond. If you said you were going to do something or be somewhere, you were there, even if a better offer came, or something you'd rather be doing came. If there was an emergency, or if something vitally important came up, you extended the courtesy of a phone call to explain. I've called people to say, "I promised to be there, but such and such has come up. Would you be offended, or would it create a problem for me to back out now? If so, please tell me and I will keep my appointment with you." Not long ago, I had an evangelist scheduled to come to my church. As the revival approached, still better than a month away, the man called me and explained that someone had given he and his wife a 7 day cruise that fell during that revival. He asked me if it would be a problem to cancel or reschedule, and said that he would turn the cruise down if it were going to be a problem for me or my church.
THAT, folks, is commitment. That is how we should live our lives.
I read a story one time, that to the best of my knowledge is true that illustrates to us commitment, and how to go about being committed. The story is about the explorer Hernando Cortez, and how in April of 1519 he sailed into Vera Cruz, Mexico. He brought with him roughly 600 men, yet within the next two years, that relatively small group of warriors, although vastly out numbered, defeated Montezuma and the Aztec empire, making Cortez the conqueror of Mexico. That is an incredible feat, especially when you consider that two prior expeditions had failed to even establish a single colony on Mexican soil. They were driven away in utter defeat.
So, what made the difference? How did Cortez rally his men to do what the others had failed to do, without themselves turning back? This is the cool part of the story, which excemplifies what it means to be committed.
Cortez knew from the beginning of his journey that he and his men were facing some incredible odds. He knew that there was extreme danger and to say it would be difficult would be a major understatement. He knew that when it got rough, he and his men might be tempted to abandon their mission and return to Spain. So Cortez took a most extreme measure to make their commitment unyeilding. As soon as he and his men had come ashore and unloaded their provisions, he ordered their entire fleet of eleven ships to be burned. He and his men stood on the shore and watched as their only possibility of retreat burned and sank. From that point on, they knew beyond any doubt there was no turning back. The only thing that lay behind them was a vast ocean, so the only option remaining was to go forward. They would conquer or die.
The problem, as I see it, is that in 2010 we, as a people, always leave options... a way out.
We alway want to hedge our bets. This has crept into our worship of God as well.
When I grew up, we were committed to our church. Now days, there is seldom that type of commitment. I've had people, even leadership say to me, that, "if this church ceases to exist, there will always be another." That is what is wrong with our churches. That is what is wrong with the Body of Christ. We've become a transcient society... and a transcient church. Commitment has gone the way of the dinosaur.