Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Commitment, community, and other random church thoughts

Just some things that have been swimming around in my brain...

I saw this tweet from Rick Warren awhile ago: "A crowd is not a church; attendance is not discipleship."

Yeah, I think that's a big problem for a lot of churches. We think if we can just get some people to show up for something, then we're really doing something. But I'm not so sure. I think there needs to be more than just a random crowd, and random attendance.

Ben has a quote from Jean Vanier on commitment:
Some people flee from commitment because they are frightened that if they put down roots in one soil they will curtail their freedom and never be able to look elsewhere. It is true that if you marry one woman you give up millions of others - and that's a curtailment of freedom! But freedom doesn't grow in the abstract; it grows in a particular soil with particular people. Inner growth is only possible when we commit ourselves with and to others.

Nice quote, and I thought Ben had some equally meaningful words to say. In speaking about the church he is attempting to plant he said:
Freedom does not rise from an obligation-less life, and we never grow spiritually in a vacuum. True spiritual growth and freedom are only possible in the context of commitment and community.

Hmm... yeah... that's kinda what I've been thinking lately. Probably the three biggest problems our church faces are a lack of: community, committed people, and spiritual growth. The frustrating thing is - they are so closely tied together. A lack of people committed to spiritual growth so hinders the development of community; a lack of community makes it so hard to help people commit to spiritual growth. So how do you address that? Where does one start?

Of course it's not that we don't have some committed people. But part of the problem is that commitment isn't all that is necessary. For instance, we have some people who are very committed to the church, but they aren't necessarily 'capable' to do a lot about it. For some this is because of age; for some it's other factors. On the other hand, we do have some people who are more than capable, they just can't seem to make a commitment. And there are always those who make commitments but then don't follow through. What you end up with are a very few people who end up doing things, unable to depend on others to help or to follow through, and the few who were committed soon become burned out or discouraged, and pretty soon no one is doing anything. Then those who won't make a commitment complain about there being nothing to commit to, and it's like throwing gas on the fire (or maybe it's more like throwing water on a spark).

Honestly... I just don't know. It seems to be the age-old question, and it pertains not only to leadership stuff, but even (or especially) small groups. I firmly believe small groups are essential to spiritual growth, but so many people fail to see the impact their presence or absence has on this (or on others). People get discouraged because people won't show up, and then it's hard for those who do show up to maintain any type of passion - especially among teachers who put in work and effort week after week, only to end up with the same old thing. It is very discouraging. It's more discouraging for me to see others get discouraged than to be discouraged myself. And it's equally tough seeing those who are 'so close' to making some kind of breakthrough in their life, and then they take a step away. And I don't see how people can not see the difference their life makes in the lives of others. How can we be so.... whatever? We care too much about the trivial, and not enough about the eternal (I read that somewhere the other day too).

I understand that Jesus came to give us 'life' and not 'church.' But I believe it is 'through the church' that we find that life in Christ. It is found 'in community.' Without the commitment to Him (and his body), we're just doing "stuff." And most of us don't need more stuff in our lives. We need more Christ in our lives.

I just read in ReJesus (p. 31) where they quote John Eldridge as saying, "God is calling together little communities of the heart, to fight for one another and for the hearts of those who have not yet been set free." Yes! I like that. THAT, to me, is what church is supposed to be. So the question remains... getting there; and finding some others who want to get there too.