Preston Sprinkle has written that the percentage of 18-29 year olds that say the have no religious affiliation, has gone from 10% to 39% in the last 30 years. Many of those that grew up in a religious setting, and are leaving the religion of their parents behind. In a 3-part series on his blog, entitled “Why Are Millenials Leaving the Church in Droves”, he lists three main reasons that they give for leaving the church of their youth: authentic community, meaningful action, and intelligent and honest dialogue. What Sprinkle deduced from that, and you probably latched on to also, is: “It wasn’t the content of Christianity that they rejected, but the posture and form of the church.” Let me put that in the language of an Arkansas redneck, they really don’t like the way that we “do” church.
So, the challenge comes to us, how can we “do” church differently, and not comprise the things that we believe are central to who we are? How can we help our churches be the kind of churches that people are willing to commit to? It is imperative that I same something right here. I know that I am not asking people to commit to a church for salvation. I understand that the commitment for salvation is a commitment to God through Jesus the Christ. But if people are leaving Jesus, because of how the churches “do” religion; then I need to be concerned about being the kind of church that people WANT TO BE A PART OF! That is the emphasis of being “a committable church”.
So, as we look at some things that I have adapted from the writing of Karl Vaters, there is a couple of things that we want to be sure and understand.
Look at these three passages of Scripture with me:
John 12:27-32 (ESV), “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.“
Romans 1:16-17 (ESV), For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.“
I Corinthians 15:1-7 (ESV), Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
We know what is important! The thing that we really have to be sure of, is that we have not obscured what is important with too much emphasis on other things. We need to know that we are not doing that now, and that if we make any changes – that those changes do not obscure what is the most important.
People’s commitment levels have changed. Previous generations might put up with a flawed practice or product, because of their loyalty; as we have already noticed, that has changed. So as we think about being “a committable church,” there are two questions that we want to ask, and try to answer.
Question #1 – What is there worth committing to?
If we want to be a church that people want to be a part of, we have to be offering something that is worth committing to. Scripture, still gives the answer to that question!
John 14:5 (ESV), Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Acts 2:36 (ESV), Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Acts 4:11-12 (ESV), This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
I want to share a quote from Karl Vaters, from his blog of February 3, 2017. You tell me, if you agree with what he is saying. I know some of the language doesn’t fit our model, but you will know what he means.
“Loyalty to a worship style, a building, a denomination or a pastor is a poor substitute for being committed to Jesus. But, too often, one has been mistaken for the other.
We need to stop asking people to commit things they don’t care about (and probably shouldn’t care about) and give them something and someone they want to care about.
People want to be challenged. Believers want to be disciples. Everyone wants a cause worth living for, and a person worth dying for.
Jesus is worth committing to. Anything less, and you might as well stay in bed.
Doing church better isn’t about serving people’s every whim and reinforcing the unbiblical, consumer-oriented church paradigm. …
There’s nothing harder on a pastor than a congregation that’s more committed to methods, music and facilities than to Jesus. Whether its older traditional ones, or new, trendy ones.
On the other hand, nothing will encourage and energize our calling more than a church full of passionate, worshipful, ministry-oriented Jesus-followers.”
Let me try to put that in a different language. If people are coming to the church you attend, because you have the best preacher, the most active youth program, the most professional music problem, or the most fantastic facilities – more than they are because of Jesus – YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. Because, the next church that comes along with better ___________ (you fill in the blank), those people will leave. I have a friend that was preaching for a church that went deep in debt to build new facilities, and he was pressured to hit a “home run” every time he stepped in the pulpit, so the attendance and contribution would stay up. In my limited experience, this is more of a problem now, than it ever has been before.
Question #2 – What do we want people to commit to?
There seems to be some redundancy in that question, but let me see if I can make this point clear. When we are asking people to commit to Jesus, how do we go about that as a church? I’m not sure that the way that we have been doing that has been very effective (and I’m talking about me, more than anyone else). Let me suggest 4 things that we want to stress to people, that we want all members of our congregation to be committed to.
1. Worshipping, loving, and obeying Jesus
2. Making & maintaining relationships with others worshipping, loving, obeying
- Making disciples of other people to worship, love, and obey Jesus.
- Doing ministry, as a representative of Jesus, to those that are in need
I have not come up with something new, and neither has Karl Vaters, and I’m sure that many of you are thinking that. But, in the culture we now have, and the seeming competition between churches for members (or just those that attend) – some of these things may have been forgotten. As a small church preacher, I have seen lots of people leave and go down the road “looking for something” that we weren’t giving them. I’m sure that there were times that was true, and there may have been times when it was just an excuse. What I need to be sure of, is that what we are feeding/giving people is something that God considers important enought to be a part of. We can’t do what larger churches do, and we shouldn’t try to compete. What we can do is be sure that we offer what Scripture says is most important; in a ways that is plain and obvious.
I had just planned on doing 2 blog posts about being a “committable” church, but there will be one more on Thursday (11-8). The third, and last, post will be about “how” do we go about doing that.