by Wayne Turner
In pre-marital counseling
the young woman said, “I believe marriage is for life.” Then she added,
“But I’m not sticking around in a bad marriage!” Her subsequent actions
showed that what she really meant was that she was not willing to
completely commit to the relationship. Is it any wonder the marriage
soon ended in divorce?
This difficulty in making or keeping commitments can be seen in
Canada’s 2006 census. Though the country’s population had grown by 7.2
percent since 2001, the number of married people only grew by 3.8
percent. The number of people who were separated grew by 5.7 percent
and the number who were divorced by 12.5 percent. Perhaps most
revealing, is that the number of people who were living together
increased by 19.6 percent! While there were 12.4 million married people
in the country, 2.7 million were living together. One in six
co-habiting couples is not married! Increasingly, people are choosing
to be in non-committed relationships. Obviously, such a tendency toward
non-commitment is also showing in other areas--family and home,
workplace and community, just to mention a few. It seems that the “Me”
generation of the past has given way to an “only Me” generation with
little sense of responsibility to anyone other than self.
This non-commitment has also carried over into the religious world.
Under Walter Kallestad’s leadership the 200-member Community Church of
Joy in Phoenix exploded to become a mega-church of 12,000. While
recovering from a heart attack, he came to realize that the church was
based on entertainment and catering to consumerism. People were not
committed to anything--God, the church, or one another. In “‘Showtime!’
No More” (Leadership, Fall
2008) he wrote, “Too many were observing the show. ... They meandered
in and out of relationships but weren’t in real community.” They were
no more committed to one another than movie-goers in a theatre.
Attendance dropped by a third when the church leaders changed its
approach to worship and shifted expectations from passive spectators to
involved, committed disciples.
For some time, there has been a well recognized distinction between
religious groups: those which expect a high level of commitment and
involvement and those with low expectations. The first are more
participatory in their worship and emphasize personal faith, the
priesthood of believers and use of spiritual gifts. The latter tend to
emphasize liturgy, ritual, and clergy with the congregation as
spectators. In more recent times, a new category has arisen. Like
Kallestad’s church, though they hope to lead people to higher
commitment, they use a low commitment attraction approach to get people
in the door--highly scripted, professional productions with
professional performers. Looking back, he writes. “For us, worship was
a show, ... We’d put all our energies into producing religious goods
and services. ... We’d produced consumers--like Pac-Man, gobbling up
religious experiences, navigating a maze but going nowhere in
Typically, we have measured commitment by attendance at Bible classes
and worship assemblies (especially Sunday and Wednesday evenings),
giving, teaching classes, leading worship, visitation, fellowship. Many
congregations have experienced a decline in some (or even most) of
these. Due to lack of participation, some churches have even dropped
Sunday evening and midweek activities altogether. (This is not to
include those who are using other activities, like small groups.)
What should be asked is how committed are church members to each other?
Do they have any commitment--any sense of responsibility--to the
church, its activities or its members? Has the non-commitment of our
culture infiltrated and undermined the work and fellowship of the
church? Should we not be concerned if it seems that some feel no
responsibility toward others, and feel free to disassociate or leave
whenever the mood strikes them?
In Romans 12:5 Paul said, “... each member belongs to all the others”
(NIV). The KJV and NASB say we are “members one of another.” Several
passages tell us that we are all one body in Christ. We should have the
same concern for each another. Our assemblies are neither to isolate us
from one another nor to entertain. We are to build up, edify,
encourage, teach, and admonish one another. This is why Hebrews 10:25
tells us not to neglect or forsake our assembly. Coming to a worship
assembly or Bible class is not just about us and “what we get out of
it.” It is about fulfilling our commitment to one another. We normally
think about attending and participating as part of our faithfulness to
God. What about being faithful to one another?
Jesus intended for the Church to be more than a loose association of
casual strangers. It is to be a family with a real sense of commitment
to each other. We might even suggest that, like marriage, it should be
seen and lived as a life-time commitment. We are to be devoted to,
honor and live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:10, 16). Our
commitment to Christ is directly measured by our commitment to each
Reprinted by permission from
Gospel Herald, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 2008.
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