Reframing Commitment

By Dr. Matthew Lee Smith

Over the course of the past 2 years I have been thinking about the alarming statistics concerning the American Church. My friend, Len Sweet, says that 75% of the churches in America are dying, 23% of them are plateaued (often taking those from dying churches) and the remaining 2% are growing due to conversion growth. (Personal conversation) Even the simplest of anecdotal evidence shows the vast majority of churches in America are in trouble.

With that in mind, I have been focused on the paradigm we Church leaders use for commitment of Christ and His Church in the USA and find it flawed. In fact, when we talk about “commitment,” we often use softer words like “attendance.” However, in the real word “commitment” has some harsh realities. Take housing as one example …

  • Owners pay for everything – and take the responsibility for everything. In return, all of the benefits belong to them. Their hard work and total investment often pays off over the long term with great rewards.
  • Renters pay for some things – and take the responsibility for only their things.  In contrast, a renter has a short-term commitment (a monthly or annual lease) and gains the benefits of the home / apartment / room for a short period of time, without the long-term appreciation of the property and the financial pay-off it might bring. They also enjoy none of the maintenance and financial responsibility beyond the negotiated rental agreement.
  • Freeloaders pay for nothing – and take no responsibility for anything. All too often someone, often children or friends, take advantage of us through an unforeseen tragedy or the misguided goodness of our hearts. Once in, these parasites consume our resources returning nothing of value. In fact, it is these sponges that often seem to think we exist to clean their clothes, feed their stomachs and put up with their messes – again, without ever lifting a hand to help with their own untidiness.

The applications of such a thought pattern are many … and are reinforced by the King Himself who said,

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, NKJV)

Paul reinforces this line of thought by saying …

For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10, NKJV)

Perhaps 2012 is a time to call our people to ownership of the Kingdom of God and to stop renting or worse, freeloading … should membership or leadership be filled with renters or freeloaders?

That’s my thought. I’d love to hear yours. Take a moment and give me your feedback in the comment section.

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