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December 23, 2003

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Maybe the problem isn't with the people who are committed in several places, but with the churches that are insular and self focussed. If churches were to work more closely together and we had more of a sense of community among the churches (truly working together, sharing resources, spending time together as extensions of one another) then it wouldn't be a big deal if someone was committed to two or three because they are in fact only connected to one.

The church isn't a building, but the fellowship of the saints. As long as there is fellowship you have a church. So it's not the walls of the buildings that create the divisions between where one church end and one begins, it's the line where one community begins and one community ends.

I see the question more as a challenge to the church than as a challenge to the regular joe who's commitment is split. Maybe as leaders we need to start making those same connections and begin sharing the leadership of our churches with the others in our communities that God has called to do the same.

Anyway... I love the post, and I think you're dead on.

I think that those who truly seek to practice the Christian faith, and who seek to lead others in that journey, do have to wrestle with this question. it isn't just a question of being divided by congregations, it, at least to me, seems to be a discipleship question. i think there are a lot of emerging churches who have created really cool worship experiences, and community, but haven't been able to create strong discipleship out of those communities. we live in a culture of nominalism, and i believe that this will be a big issue for leaders in the coming years.

Jamie - okay, I think you're right about the churches needing to work together and develop perhaps a greater "kingdom" perspective -- but does that get "average joe" off the hook? As Dave pointed out in the post that followed yours:

"We live in a culture of nominalism..."

...and I'm thinking that commitment should transcend whatever degree our communities of faith are interconnected. Would this new "definition" of commitment fly in other arenas (sports teams,higher education, company of employment, etc)? My hunch is no.

Dave, I think you're on to something with the "discipleship" angle. I'd like to hear more.

I think you have hit on a big issue. Commitment is absolutely lacking. I think it is a response to abusive control and manipulation used in the past. But, just like an individual who was raised in an abusive home, you will never be able to move forward until you come to a point where you can stop focusing on the past and take responsibility for the present.

In other words, I can react against the control in my past and act like a juvenile delinquent or I can choose to let go of my past and live for God today - which means a life commited to obedience.

Before I can expect others to live this life, I need to live this life.

I totally agree with you Chris. I don't think that it's entirely on the churches. I was just hoping to shed light on the other side of the question. I really like Dave's thoughts about discipleship as well...

You've struck a personal nerve for me, DP. I spent many years being very committed and involved in my church community. Some years ago, after being really burnt by a church situation where we felt that commitment was abused, we began to pull away... we found a new church that we love, but we were slow to get involved again, and then life brought many responsibilities that suck my time and energy... so I am not as "committed" as I used to be, and I find myself missing services much more often (especially during flu season with two young kids!)...

All that to say - now, from this viewpoint, I have a hard time finding the energy and enthusiasm for programs and productions, and I'm afraid that much of what I see in church feels like that... I long for the simplicity and sense of belonging that I experienced when I was 25, but I'm not there anymore...

So I am looking to understand how to stay committed to "the Church" as a whole, to be in community, to be accountable, and serve others as well as be served... but I'm leary of the "programs and productions" and I don't always live up to my own earlier definitions of "committed"... :( I think it's a complex issue...

I'm with ya DP! Although my church attendance this month has been horrible (My attendance is usually 100% or at least 75% for Sunday). Gone for a month, I've been a bad, bad, Coptic.

But in all fairness at least half my absences this month were excused (unexpected assigned to work on Sunday morning, so I took my client to a nice Protestant pastors church, a friend of mine and Stan). And as far as the other absences well one time I didn't feel good (and didn't want to go to a marathon Coptic service and went to the much shorter Armenian service instead. And the other time two weeks ago, well my former ministry felt we had to celebrate Sadams demise. Stans Church and my former one had its roots in that country. Infact, we had a former patriarch who had been hiding for the last twelve years, because Sadam had a death order for him (He publically backed the failed 1991 uprising against him, then had to go in hiding when it failed). So anyway, Stan and I thought that was something worth celebrating and we kind of found ourselves glued to the TV Sunday morning....

So anyway thats my excuses, but come this Sunday its back to the "Straight and Narrow" for me. :>)

I think that many up and coming believers were brought to or back to Christ outside a church. There is a slow, but growing revival going on out there, or at least "off-campus". As college students find themselves drawn closer to Christ by para-church stuff, they don't feel as connected to a particular church. I have been involved in several on-going ministries to college students that were joint efforts of several churches (actually several denominations)and in these ministries "the church" is modeled as something much bigger than a group of people that worship at a particular location. The time is coming -it has, in fact, come - when what you are called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
In my church, we spoke to a lot of folks coming out of the student ministry who said they felt connected to the student ministry, but didn't consider themselves a part of the church as a whole. I think they are plugging themselves into what delivers what they need.
Many of my students at work, actually come to our church for Bible study and go to another church for worship.
I could be completely wrong here, but I think some of these things will disappear as these students mature and begin to minister rather than having to seek the scratch for their own itches.
Here is where the discipleship problem comes in. They won't grow and begin to minister unless they are discipled. The scary thing is that here is something that HAS been experienced by previous generations and the boomer, "product oriented" flavor, has not succeeded in growing people out of the consumer mentality and into a ministry mentality. That's why they are so defensive of their product. With that track record, discipling split personality emerging Christians is of huge importance.

"Does the oft-cited desire for community among pomo's even have a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding?"

... maybe successful community cannot be neatly defined by meeting someone's attendance quota and maybe real community happens away from religiously structured meetings ... and maybe i'm just full o chit

Yeah, I don't know why, but this made me think of some comments I've had to respond to from co-workers and congregation members. One of the ones that frustrate me most concerns worship music. "The music is so loud that I can't hear the people beside me singing. How are we supposed to have a sense of fellowship and community when I can't even hear the people beside me singing"?
Of course my response is that the purpose of that worship music is not for you to experience fellowship. They say they pity a generation that doesn't experience fellowship. But what they don't see is that these folks are all going out for coffee and sandwiches after church on Sunday night and Wednesday and they're playing ultimate frisbee on Sunday afternoon and they're handing out sandwiches in the park on Saturday mornings. They focus on God at church and they focus on each other afterward. I feel that the previous generation hasn't focussed a lot on each other except at church and therefor the need has to be filled there.

Wow -- great thoughts from everyone!

Kevin, I'm hearing you on how past abuses within the church is a major factor. Something similar may be in view with Chris' comments above as well. Spiritual abuse is something I've tragically witnessed up close myself. That being the case, I'm worried that our culture's preoccupation with litigation, coupled with a growing "victim mentality" is taking its toll on the body of Christ (please don't read into this ANY disregard for the horrors of those who have suffered abuse -- I'm simply drawing attention to the variety stirred up by "opportunists").

The challenge before us is daunting: many people need love that's tender, that facilitates healing -- while others need love that's tough, the "I'm-gonna-kick-your-butt-because-I-love-you-and-will-not-stand-to-see-you-waste-your-life-or-destiny" kind of love. Whew! We need the Holy Spirit's help more than ever.

DP - I'd love to hear your philosophy on what "church" is "for" some day... What should we commit "to"? and why? (not meant antagonistically or anything negative! :) )

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