Why is it that we struggle to commit ourselves to anything—people, social events, blogging every other week, marriage, workout routines, diets, even where we eat dinner on Friday night. Just this week I didn’t want to make weekend plans with one friend because I wasn’t sure if I may get a better offer or come up with a better idea. Have you noticed this?
Noticing this tendency in myself, my peers, and in the culture generally, it is clear that our culture is afraid of commitment. Unfortunately, I think it is more than a simple tendency or initial reaction. If we cannot even commit to weekend plans before the weekend arrives for fear that something better might come up, what shall we do when we must commit to things that require something of us?
Commitment is way too long-term. It’s too difficult to know if we’ll still want to be committed to something next year, next month, or next week. If it benefits us now, then we’re completely ok with it. But who knows if that same thing or person will continue to benefit us later or “then.” Why are we like this? Should we change it? How can we?
Part of the answer is that we are consumers of the here and now. We are told that living for the moment is a good thing—soaking it all up so that we can get the most out of it. That’s something that athletes can get away with during a competition, but it makes for a poor life motto. Of course, those are our heroes, the people our culture looks up to for guidance. There’s part of the problem.
Another possible reason is that we have too much going on to really think about staying committed to anything much longer than a month. Have you noticed that many churches these days offer a “trial-run” small group that lasts 4-6 weeks? It gives people a chance to see if they like it. This definitely fits with our culture, but what does it say about Jesus? Is He something you can just try for a few weeks to see if He fits into your life?
You know what? The lack of commitment I see in myself, and my friends, ticks me off. I’m sick of it. I see it everywhere. I have been attending churches for the last three years, but I haven’t really planted roots and made a commitment. I work for an organization that survives through volunteers; I bet more than half of the people who sign up to volunteer never show up. A friend told me there are over 300 underprivileged boys on the waiting list who have requested to have a “big brother” in Charlotte. Are you kidding me? 300? You have heard the single most important relationship for a child is a father figure, right?
While I’m on this miniature rant, let me get to what really irks me. Church shopping. I’m not sure if I can think of a better oxymoron. Church: a missional community committed to Jesus Christ and one another. Shopping: the pursuit of something that makes you feel good. You don’t shop for a church. You participate in one. If you’re not participating, then you’re not part of one. And by participating, I do not mean attending Sunday services.
We need to stop acting like there might be something better waiting around the corner when it comes to church. We cannot treat church like our weekend plans. Church is what God has designed for us to live life to the fullest. But it will cost us. And that’s the issue.
After thinking about this for a few weeks now, I’ve finally arrived at a reason that I think makes sense: we’re selfish. We lack commitment exactly because it is going to cost us something. We don’t want to give whatever that is up. We want to hang on to it, enjoy it, control it, soak it up, and “live the dream.”
The Gospel is about giving it all up. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. And you cannot live out the Gospel without committing to a church.
Let me leave you with some encouraging and motivating words from a German philosopher:
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can—begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”