God has increasingly revealed to me a main problem with many efforts within the modern church to establish community. While people say they want community, most are not willing to pay the price. They mistakenly underestimate the cost. When they see the price tag, they run away frightened by sticker shock.
What is the price of true community? The simple answer is sacrificial love and death to self. People come for the gourmet coffee and casual chit-chat about sports or politics. But they tend to leave when life gets tough or simple the community thing is no longer new. Efforts to start community tend to begin with a big bang. But they will quickly die out with commitment.
Where does this commitment come from? What makes someone stay around when times get tough? I believe a genuine call from God is a must. People need to get a revelation of Hebrews 10:24-25. They must hear from God the importance of real fellowship, openness and exhortation.
Many people want to avoid the dreaded “C” word. Yes, there is nothing that will make people run for the doors than to make them think they will have to commit to something. Marriage, children, work and church on Sundays is enough thank you. Many people think, “I don’t need more commitment.” So to keep from exciting their fears, we try to create easy entry, light on the commitment opportunities for fellowship and community. Sure, these may be necessary for those on the fringe. What about those looking to grow deeper in Christ and harmony with the Body?
By soft selling the underlining purpose aren’t we actually reinforcing the exact opposite of what we want people to take away from community building campaigns? Aren’t we really saying that commitment is not that important? Doesn’t community take time and effort? How can we expect to have community when there are so many people looking at their watches wondering when they can leave?
Can there really be community without commitment? I don’t think so. But how do we define commitment without being legalistic? Then we just end up jumping into the ditch on the other side of the road. I guess that there is no one right answer. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Our correct course can only be found through Him.
I really believe that lack of commitment, especially among men, has hampered many modern church fellowships. People view church just like everything else – it is a product to be consumed. When it no longer works, people discard it or go on to the next one.
Commitment is necessary to keep going when problems and trials come our way. But then again you can’t really force anyone to be committed to something. That is kind of like saying that you have to like somebody. If you are a parent, you have probably noticed that we can’t even force our kids to like each other. Although we can keep them from hurting each other, they have to decide to let God change their heart. Likewise, community cannot be structured by a committee. It must start with a call from God.
The big question is, “Are we listening?”