Friday, August 21, 2009

Spinning Our Wheels

One of the ways to get a car or truck really stuck is get it on loose snow or sand, so the tires are turning, but instead of taking you forward, they are just digging their way into the ground (or snow). And no matter how hard you push on the gas, the car doesn't move. One of the most common statements about the church in the United States is that we lack commitment. Yet I have never seen a pastor who did not preach his heart out calling for commitment. Why are we trying so hard and not getting anywhere? Why are we spinning our wheels?

While there are people in any congregation who need to get their lives right with God, I suspect this message does not affect most of the people because they believe they are already committed. They live "good moral lives", they are involved in church activities, they may have made a past decision of commitment, and they throw the call to commitment over their shoulders to those who really need it. Yet I have to question whether this is all the preacher is really asking for. Are we accepting too low a standard of commitment?

Or dare I suggest another possibility. Is it possible that church leadership has unrealistic expectations. Are they looking for a perfect church that does not exist in the real world. Also, could it be that those in charge measure commitment, not by commitment to God and His truth, but by commitment to the organization and its programs. It is easy to elevate minor differences of opinion and personality conflicts into evidence of lack of commitment. But even if we consider that leadership may sometimes have idealized standards (and I think sometimes they do), are we then to settle for the present situation? How do we resolve this dilemma?

Scripture pictures the Christian life as a process of growth (Colossians 2:19; Hebrews 5:14). We are also called to carry out God's work in the world as on-going practice (Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 6:9,10). Now we are called to commitment, but it is commitment to be involved in this process and practice (Romans 12:1,2; Ephesians 4:17-24). There will always be a place for preaching for people to make this commitment. But those who have should never be satisfied where we are, but always be pressing on (Philippians 3:12), for the standard is God's perfection, and none of us are there yet (Matthew 5:48). In this same light, the leadership should not be too quick to judge a person's spiritual state (1 Corinthians 4:3-5), but urge them to continue on to grow in Christ (Colossians 1:28,29), and to do so by preaching the specific things they need to change to go on further with God (2 Timothy 4:1,2). Perhaps then we will be able to get enough traction to go down the street, rather then spinning our wheels.

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