Let me be honest right out of the gate–this is a hard article to write. I am sure it will be received well by some and not-so-well by others. Nonetheless, the biggest problem in your church, my church, and EVERY CHURCH needs to be addressed. This is not an isolated problem, but a growing problem in many churches. What is this problem? It is the problem of commitment! I do not like to talk about problems. Who does? I would rather view problems as possibilities. After all, that is the positive approach, right? But, I am afraid we need to be positively honest about this problem! There is just no other way to put it.
I have heard it said, and I have even said it myself, "Our problem in the church is a lack of commitment." Honestly, it's more than a lack of commitment, it's "no" commitment from many of our "members." One of the most amazing things I have noticed as a pastor is that often the "attenders" to my church are more faithful than some "members" of my church!
In his book, I Am A Church Member, Thom Rainer speaks of church membership as "functioning membership." Rainer writes, "We who are church members are all supposed to function in the church. The concept of an inactive church member is an oxymoron. Biblically, no such church member really exists" (p. 16). At the end of the day we are either committed church members or we are not committed church members.
One thing I have learned, personally, is that I am committed to those things which are important to me...
I am committed to my walk with Christ. I cannot depend on anyone else for my spiritual growth. Yes, we are called to disciple one another in a maturing walk with Christ, but at the end of the day I am ultimately responsible for my relationship with Jesus. As a pastor I have had to come to terms with the fact that I cannot "make" someone have a passion for Jesus. That work rests in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am also committed to my family. My wife and kids are the most important people to me on this earth. Next to God, they deserve the best of my time and energy. One day someone else will pastor the church where I lead. Another man will sit in my office and stand in my pulpit. But no one else can be the daddy to my kids like me, their dad!
I am committed to my church. Not only am I the pastor, but I am a church member. Yes, God has uniquely called me to lead this particular group of people, but I am called to serve and function in the local body, just as every other member. Part of my functioning means that I am to support the ministry of the church through consistent tithing, actively serving, and faithful praying.
As I look across the landscape of "the church," I cannot help but see a tremendous lack of commitment. It is no secret, in our own Southern Baptist Convention, baptisms are declining, less people are serving, and fewer are supporting their local church through tithes and offerings. The more I think through this problem, the more I realize that it actually goes deeper than commitment. It is a matter of love. I am afraid many believers have followed the steps of the Ephesian church and have "left their first love" (Rev. 2:4). You see when we love Jesus, as we should love Jesus, we will be committed to Him and His church! No excuses!
So, how do you know that your commitment to Christ and His church is waining? How do you know if you are on a path of "leaving your first love?" Here are some signs that your commitment to the local church might be waining...
I am sure there are other signs, but these are a few of the first thoughts that popped into my mind. So, what can we do to avoid these landmines?