Commitment as long as it works for you isn’t commitment.

During a very edifying time with a friend, we got on to the subject of the innate problem most Americans, including Christians, have with commitment. We weren’t discussing marriage.  Although there is certainly an argument to be made even on that subject, there have been (literally) no divorces in the relatively large circle of families we have been blessed to have fellowship with over the past five years. A couple of close scrapes, but they weathered the storms and came out on the other side, usually happier it seemed. So no, this isn’t about marriage commitments.

It’s about the kinds of commitments that make a viable Christian community over the long haul possible, but which no one -myself included- really want to commit to. At some point the needs of my family, my kids’ education, or my perspective may change in a way that continued commitment to that community won’t work for me anymore. By won’t work, I mean become inconvenient, not comforting, non-affirming, or in some other way fail to add measurable benefit to my life as needs dictate at that time.

The freedom to go for the gold, forge our own paths, rebel against “tyranny” and maximize our potential are what it means to be an American. There are few things in life worth giving up that kind of autonomy for, so in order to spare ourselves the messiness of disentangling from one thing to seamlessly move on to another, we resist committing to anything. Then we wonder why there is no depth of Christian community nor sufficient support, socialization, and connections between believers so that our young people aren’t floundering when it’s time to find a good job, Christian social lives, or a suitable Christian mate. Or why some of them have already determined that family life is not worth the risks or the sacrifices. It’s because we’ve set a poor example.

This admonishment is as much for me as anyone else. After all my impressive rhetoric (according to my friend), when she proposed that I might be the perfect person to fill a particular role, my immediate response was, ” I don’t know, [Carol]. That’s a big commitment!”

…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

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7 thoughts on “Commitment as long as it works for you isn’t commitment.

  1. This is interesting, because I have heard from the pulpit (I misremember whether it was Pastor Dan or Pastor Mike) a frustrated, “please knock off the church shopping and settle in – you’re always going to be under authority, if it’s unscriptural, that’s one thing – get out. But if it’s just preference, you need to put down some roots.”

    One of the things that my church does very, very well is encourage everyone to serve, and Pastor Dan was saying how he always worries when he hears someone say, “I think I hear a calling for a different ministry” when they’re resigning from ministry A – if they haven’t started working in ministry B. Why? Because doing ministry, showing up, is a form of accountability. One day you’re out of ministry, the next day you don’t show up to church.

    Now me, I tend to overcommit and overextend, and I need to keep myself in check. But you can guilt me by staring at me crosseyed. “We need people to hang out in the parking lot around kid-pickup time on Wednesdays” and I suddenly feel like, “well, it wouldn’t be tooooo hard…” -rolls eyes- I’ve got enough things going on, I have to be very accountable, and this is one of the wonderful things about being married, I run all the things past DH and he tells me, “You may have X # of hours/wk for that, no more” if he even allows it. So that’s good. Not everyone has my easy-guiltability though. 😀 Better, IMO to think through and let your yes be yes and your no be no than to commit and flake. If I say I’ll do it – I do it.

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  2. My friend noted that over the past few years she was growing frustrated with some things about her church but that her husband would never in a million years think of leaving their church without a very clear and unambiguous theological reason.

    I realized that I have had the same experience; fantasies of a “better” church while for my husband, such a thought has never been uttered. Our church is our church.

    I have certainly acquired his position and internalized it as my own, hence this post. You don’t turn and run looking for greener grass every time your sensibilities are offended and/or you’re not getting what you think you “need” from a particular group or community. That’s not what Christians do. We’re about serving, not being served.

    That isn’t to say that we don’t have real needs. I would never say that. That’s preposterous, but you get what I’;m saying here.

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  3. I totally do get what you’re talking about. One of the things we see at our church, because it’s bigger, is that folks will show up to our special stuff and not go to the services. Which is tots fine – especially within our denomination. But one thing leads to another – if all your friends from women’s ministry are at this church, going to your home church without that connection can become stale. The last two phone calls I’ve made for ride ministry are for folks who don’t even attend our church, they just heard we were really helpful!!

    I’m pretty sure there’s a LOT of church hopping in our area, because we are incredibly fortunate to have several churches of about the same size/quality in the city. This is where church discipline becomes nearly impossible – when you can drift out of one church body into another with no one knowing any different, how can being out of community be painful in the least? At least if you have not (going back to the OT) invested/committed in anything other than warming a pew of a Sunday.

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  4. Not that I would expect this to happen, but church discipline would be more effective if each congregation were to contact the last congregation (or more if needed) to ask if there was a reason (for example, church discipline) they had left that congregation. I think this may happen within some denominations, but is unlikely otherwise.

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  5. How would you know they’d left if they didn’t mention it? Most churches in the non-denom groups don’t do official “membership” these days. (Although we have a class about our church and our denom which is encouraged for everyone, all you have to do to be a member of our church is to say you’re a member of our church).

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  6. For sure it’s based on an honor system approach. You would have to take new members word for it. Also you live in an area where a significant number of people at your church are new converts (praise the Lord for that!)

    When I was a kid, at our church people became new members through one of three avenues: candidate for baptism/new convert, Christian experience (usually believers new to the area), or with a letter from the church they left saying they left in good standing. So it’s not unheard of, but ours was a small church in a small town in a different era.

    These days it is much harder to monitor this type of thing. Fortunately most church hoppers are also little more than pew warmers but I have seen what can happen when such a person is religiously ambitious. They can cause division and tear at the fabric of established communities.

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