When I Google the word “commitment” some of the following definitions pop up:
“The state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.”
“A promise to be loyal to someone or something.”
“An engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”
“The state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled”
Dedicated. Obligation. Emotionally impelled. Restricted freedom.
These are four-letter words for individualistic Westerners, and especially among younger generations. We like to be the masters of our own fate, dictators of our own schedule and activities, and leaders of our own lives. Even if we have submitted our lives to Jesus Christ as Lord, there is an ongoing struggle against the restriction of our freedom to what we want, when we want, how we want and why we want. This is nothing new. The first man and woman bought into the lie that our Creator is a cosmic killjoy, desiring to limit the freedom of his creatures and keep them in a box of organized and structured control.
Of course, as those who have had the veil of darkness lifted in the light of Christ, we learn throughout Scripture that this very desire for control and freedom is our poison and enslavement, and that true freedom and life comes from faith in the Son of God and ordering ourselves under our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
As individuals who have understood and believed the message of the gospel, we get this. We understand that our desire to wrestle away control from our Creator God, our rebellious sin, has consequences and that we need to be saved from these consequences. The contemporary evangelical church has been quite good at articulating the vertical dimension of individual salvation between God and man. And, it has rightfully put a great emphasis on the evangelistic horizontal dimension between man and man in communicating this gospel message.
Yet, I believe the contemporary evangelical church has been rather poor in helping Christians (especially younger generations) understand another important horizontal dimension that results from individual salvation – commitment to the local church.
In this “Why Church” blog series, we have attempted to articulate not only that we’ve been individually saved from the consequences of our sin and the wrath of God but also that we have been adopted into God’s family. We have been saved FROM a kingdom of darkness TO the kingdom of light, the Body of Christ and the people of God.
This sounds good on paper. It is a nameless group of people with nameless leaders (under Jesus) that could meet anywhere and is about anything (as long as it fits biblically). It can be easy to commit to the idea of the Body of Christ.
But what about when it becomes a particular people and a particular church? What if it is Riverside Community Church? What if those people and that place aren’t perfect, and it’s messy?
Go ahead and let your mind drift: What bothers you about our particulars? What do you like? What feels like obligation? What feels like joyful privilege?
Riverside is a young church full of members who are dedicated, but tired; faithful, but battling burn out; committed, but overloaded. We’re growing in number and in mission – which is both exciting and scary. We’re in the midst of many major initiatives: new elders, bylaws, searching for a more permanent home and planting our first churches.
In this intense season, the prevailing spirit can easily slip from joyful, dedicated commitment to frustrated, bitter obligated duty. Hearing “commit” can sound like “You better do more.” So, why commit?
First, we should commit because Jesus committed himself to the Church. He “loved her and gave himself up for her.” He dedicated himself to the Father’s plan and was obedient in his duty even when that duty took him to the Cross. He did it not for duty’s sake, but to the everlasting glory of His Father and everlasting joy set before him.
He gave himself up for you to save you individually so that you can enter into the rest and blessing of the Kingdom of God. He also gave himself up for the universal church to present her complete to Father as a pure bride – making disciples of all nations and reconciling all things to himself to display the glory of God to all creation. And, I would argue that he also gave himself up locally because he loves the people of God expressed at Riverside Community Church. He wants to make disciples in Columbia, SC. He wants to reconcile to himself our neighbors in Forest Acres, Irmo, Cottontown, Earlewood, Old Woodlands, Lexington, the Northeast, Allen-Benedict Court, CIU, USC, your workplaces, and everywhere in between. Our church is a part of the universal church that Christ gave himself up for – so, you should commit to us. If not us, then another local expression of the universal church.
Second, we should commit because each of us is a body part. Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians 12 is a beautiful look at how God gifts all of his people with certain spiritual gifts to make the Body of Christ whole. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it,” Paul writes. As an individual saved by God into his family, you are here at Riverside at this time and place to display the glory of God within this community and to the city of Columbia. God has gifted you with spiritual gifts, and also with time, talents, and treasure that you can, and should, give to this church to make her whole.
Lastly, we should commit because we need each other. God is not a man in that he should need anything, but Riverside is a local church that has needs corporately and is a people who have needs individually. I don’t feel shy at all to admit that we corporately have needs – we certainly do not have it all together.
Can you pray for our leaders to have guidance and direction and that Christ would keep us focused on him and his mission? Can you pray that God would provide us a more permanent church home? Can you give to resource the mission? Can you set up speakers so we can amplify the Word and musical worship on Sunday? Can you sing? Can you play an instrument? Can you teach and lead a small group discussion? Can you hang out with at-risk kids at Allen-Benedict Court? Can you share the table (and the gospel) with your neighbors? Can you spend a Sunday morning teaching our children the gospel in children’s ministry? Can you tear down and store away our mobile church each week? Can you greet new people and welcome them in? Can you develop leaders and coach small groups? Can you write blog posts? Can you preach? Can you create beautiful art?
We have been loved greatly by our Creator, saved from our destructive rebellion and impending spiritual death, and placed into this particular people at this particular time in this particular city. By God’s grace and the power of His spirit, I am constantly seeking to reject my own self-absorbed desires for my own little kingdom and instead committed to people of Riverside to live out our calling as the Body of Christ to the glory of God. Will you commit with me?