Shows Main Idea – The local church is one of many options for the busy, post-modern family. The downside is that commitment to the church has declined. Many leaders are concerned, as they struggle with instilling commitment in their local churches. This podcast provides a few answers.
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Since the world became smaller, people are doing more things. When the world was bigger, people were just as busy but did fewer things. Now people are more scattered. Family, work, and church are the big three spheres where we live but within those spheres are exponentially more options.
There are two general ways to encourage commitment: (1) mandate it or (2) encourage it. While there should be some kind of “mandate” like a covenant of commitment, the primary way to instill commitment is to encourage it. Here are four ways from a much longer list:
- Modeling: are you and your family committed to your local church?
- Teaching: are you teaching commitment within your spheres of influence?
- Contexts: are you using the church contexts to envision your spheres of influence?
- Interaction: are you responding to those spontaneous relational moments to speak to others about commitment?
Teach a New Language
A vibrant church’s commitment will grow organically as the relationships within the body flourish. The two keys to encourage this are being biblical and relational. If you’re biblical, you’ll stay on the right theological rails. If you’re relational and biblical, you’ll build Christlike relationships.
- Being biblical without relationships is academia, not a local church.
- Being relational without solid Bible teaching is a social club.
Here are four ways you can envision your people to commit to their local body. You should be able to add twice as many things to this list.
- A new member’s class should teach commitment and what it means.
- When a new member (or member family) joins the church, they go up front and affirm their commitment to the church, what it means to be a member, and their pledge to do those things. That process for each member would “teach” a value to the church each time it happens.
- Teach commitment each Sunday in the message would be powerful. (You don’t have to talk specifically about “commitment to the church” but you can talk about commitment to Christ. There are a zillion ways of talking about this.
- Envision small group leaders and make that a core component to how they lead their groups.
These simple steps are more organic than legalistic. They happen in the milieu. Hearts must be targeted daily, weekly, and throughout the year until it becomes part of the church culture.
You could think of it like learning a new language. If you frame it that way, you will think of many more ways to teach a “commitment language” to the church.
What you’re up against is a lack of commitment, which is not unique to your church. It is a systemic problem with many churches. I could list fifty ways our culture lives out non-committed lives. Here are twelve.
- Teen sports are more important than the church.
- Being late for meetings is rampant.
- Inability to reflect, focus, or maintain a thought for more than a few seconds.
- Not able to prioritize or manage their lives.
- Misplaced values.
- Loving pleasure more than Christ.
- A culture of consumers: What’s in it for me?
- Lack of honoring the pastors and other leaders’ commitment to them.
- General selfishness.
- Not trained to be other-centered.
- Weak work ethics.
It’s a long list that makes teaching opportunities you want to address while being careful because some of these things are idolatries in some families. Whenever you address people’s idols, there will be blowback. Be humble. Be clear. Choose the right moments to envision. Ask the LORD give you insight on how your people are distracted, which has led to devaluing church commitment.
Target the Committed
You will have a hard time changing a culture, though you can be used of the LORD to change one life at a time. Identify and focus on the unique lives of those who “get it” by pouring yourself into them rather than trying to persuade masses. Group change happens slowly if it happens at all; one life can change quickly.
This is how I operate this ministry. I spread content broadly daily but I only focus on a few: those who are committing themselves to this work. You don’t ignore the masses but you must be realistic: if the LORD does not change their hearts, then you won’t be able to effectually help them (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
I’m sad for the thousands who love a good word but are not willing to commit to the process of change. Similar to Jesus looking over Jerusalem, all you can do is weep for the uncommitted. Consumerism is here to stay.
I want what I want when I want it how I want it and you’re supposed to make it happen according to my expectations. BTW, after you pour your life out for me, I won’t even turn around to say, thank you.
Ask the Father to give you a few good men and women to replicate while you provide for the masses. Every now and then there will be one “coming by night” looking for something more (John 3:1). That’s the person you want to equip.
Be Relationally Intentional
If you have a mechanism(s) for tracking folks’ participation, like say, a non-formal, non-intrusive way of keeping track of them, you could approach individuals throughout the year and ask them how you can serve them to help them have a more effective walk with Jesus.
It does not have to be legislated or mandated, but an organic, caring, relationship thing. Teach your leaders how to observe the people within their sphere of influence. God observes His children for loving helpful purposes. We should be that way too.
E.g., if you have VBS, kid programs, church picnics (family days), formal church meetings (Sunday AM), children’s ministry, car washes, and so forth, you will observe who participates, who does not, who volunteers, who’s looking for ministry opportunities, and those who do not. If your church is larger, each ministry sphere leader can do similarly over their spheres of influence.
A solid church will have practices in place that intentionally intrude in each others’ lives. A healthy body will do this, and if you’re doing this well, then those who want it will gravitate to your caring, replicating community. Those who don’t want it will not be persuaded no matter what you do.
Finally, you should rest because the LORD ultimately adds to His church. Your goal is to fulfill your secondary responsibilities while trusting the LORD, who is the primary mover of hearts.