Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Getting the Man Off the Dime

A common complaint of church leaders is that the people are not committed. So they preach fervently about commitment. And nothing major seems to change. Now I am not not against preaching commitment; it is a genuine biblical theme (Romans 12:1,2; Galatians 5:16; Titus 2:11-14). Though I do believe that beating people over the head with the rules is counterproductive (Romans 5:20; Matthew 23:4; Galatians 3:21,22). But even apart from that, if it is not working, I have to ask if we are doing the wrong thing.

What do we mean by commitment? Too often we are thinking of commitment to an organization or a program rather than Christ. But the purpose of the church is to introduce people to Christ and build them up in Him (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 10:24,25). The organization exists to facilitate this. We also may have a stereotype of a committed Christian that we expect people to live up to. This often involves ignoring the various gifts in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Colossians 2:19). And it is easy to question those whose gifts do not fit our expectations. Now we need to correct clear-cut sin (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15), but we should be careful of judging others based on a perception of lack of commitment (James 4:11,12; Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5).

Now in any congregation there are those who are not serious about following Christ. This is what sermons on commitment are for. But there are also those who are discouraged because they do not fit into a particular stereotype or program. And by forcing them into an agenda they cannot embrace, we discourage them from doing what God has planned for them. They should be told that God is at work in them to accomplish their particular purpose (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6; Colossians 1:28,29). But the main reason sermons on commitment bounce off the majority of the congregation is that they believe they already are committed. They believe if they are moral people who are involved in church work, they are committed. They need to be reminded that they are sinners (Romans 3:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6), saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). The result of this is that God is at work to change their lives (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:16,17). But this is a process, and they are not there yet. Commitment is frequently posed as a yes or no question. Therefore, if the individual does not have obvious spiritual problems, they are unwilling to admit that they are not committed. But if growth in God is seen as a process, we should never be satisfied with where we are, but press on to what we are becoming. Real commitment is to a process of change. Not to look for a fictitious plateau to stop at.  

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