A lot of church leaders I know are struggling with what we’ll call ‘low levels of commitment’ in their churches. It seems to be a broader issue too, with plenty of local and overseas Christian websites, blogs and podcasts spotlighting the issue.
Average church attendance has dropped in the last decade, with regular attendance at Sunday services now frequently being defined once-a-month. And this has an obvious knock-on effect for attendance at small group meetings and filling ministry rosters.
There are many reasons for this, ranging from a growing ‘commitment-phobia’ in our social culture, to changing attitudes towards church, to increasingly pressured family schedules to over-programming from churches. A friend of mine has even cautiously suggested that churches take a ‘fallow year’ to address some of this, but that’s a discussion for another day.
What I wonder, though, is whether or not we sometimes confuse commitment to our church institution, programs, finances and activities with commitment to our church family. We often say that the church is the people, not the building; but does that carry through to the way we commit to our church?
In Acts 2:42-47, we find the early church deeply committed to each other as they are joined together in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.
‘And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’ (Acts 2:42–47 ESV)
To the early church, it was their commitment to love and serve each other in the gospel that showed the world around them that they were different (see also John 13:35). Their commitment didn’t mean they just did more church stuff, it meant they practiced a real sacrificial togetherness.
Live it: How would your commitment to your church change if you thought about it less as a commitment to an institution and more as a commitment to serve and love your brothers and sisters in Christ?