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Come and Be Committed

Sheep-stealing. Church-hopping. Growth by transfers.

Not a pretty picture, but someone has to raise the issue. Do big churches expand at the expense of other churches?

Instead of catching fish, are we transferring the guppies from one aquarium to another? Movement, yes; but real growth? Hmmm. Hard to say.

“People come, people go.” That’s what a cinema or restaurant manager can offer by way of explanation for a drop in attendance, but does it sound convincing from a church leader? It’s a free country after all. It’s their choice to leave – our loss, someone’s gain. Overall, maybe even a slight increase in the numbers (double counting?).

But as an American writer bluntly put it: are churches reaching out to the lost, or just to those who attend other churches?

Do our visions, goals, sermons, programmes, emphasis, campaigns, etc resonate with the unchurched? Do they share our heartbeat and love for God? Do our winsome witness and evangelistic endeavors make sense to them? Will they open their hearts to receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord?

Does it look like we have picked all the low-hanging fruit? The “pre-believers” most responsive to what we have to offer have joined us already. People come to church for all kinds of reasons – spiritual nurture; social contacts; support groups (Cells); convenience, avenues to serve; opportunities to know more people; a safe place for their children to widen their friendship; etc. They have found a niche and are now safe in our sheep pen. Selah.

Then what about a small category who are “converted but unchurched”? The expression is almost a contradiction in terms, but this group does exist and any effort to enfold them is commendable. How is our church a good fit for them?

Now back to the question of Christians who transit. It’s not like we’re taking them away from the Lord – they are still His sheep. We don’t “poach” sheep, we grow better grass, I hear. The flock can see the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Maybe it’s the sermon, the worship, the warm welcome, the Newcomers’ Lounge (coffee and all) or the post-service fellowship? The pieces of the puzzle do fit for them. At least they are safe in some enclosure, somewhere.

Which brings us to the point: why are we not emphasizing church loyalty? Yes, we are part of the bigger Body of Christ but we need to stick and stay with the local church, too.

Karl Vaters offers a stinging viewpoint: “People who don’t go to church, don’t want to go to church. They’re not rolling out of bed late on Sunday morning wishing they had somewhere more churchy to be. In fact, a growing number of people who do go to church don’t want to go, either. If we don’t give them something worth committing to, they’ll be gone soon.” Post COVID-19 fallout.

Teach commitment. Stress its importance and centrality. A church cannot consist of a majority of visitors. Believers must anchor themselves and be counted – come weal, come woe. Stay faithful.

Does that mean nobody leaves?

Vaters expands on this point: “People are deciding that leaving church is better than being bored in church. I don't blame them. If we don’t challenge people through a genuine experience of worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry, they’ll do one of four things: 1) go to a church that challenges them more, 2) go to a church that entertains them better, 3) show up physically, but disengage in every other way, or 4) stop going to church entirely. People want to go to a church where they’re challenged by something bigger than themselves and where their gifts are being used to further that cause.”

Teach commitment. Stress its importance and centrality. A church cannot consist of a majority of visitors. Believers must anchor themselves and be counted – come weal, come woe. Stay faithful.

One of the most heart-warming illustrations of commitment and loyalty is found in 1 Chronicles 12:18 NIV – “Then the Spirit came on Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: ‘We are yours, O David! We are with you, O son of Jesse! Success, success to you, and success to those who help you, for your God will help you.’” In verse 33, we also read of the tribe of Zebulun, fifty thousand strong, who were prepared for battle and pledged allegiance and loyal support to David.

Commitment is a beautiful gift. It encourages both the giver and recipient. Churches should dare to ask for it. And dare to give it. A two-way street.

“That’s what it’s all about”.

Dr Andrew Goh is the editor of Impact magazine.


VOL. 47 NO. 2 of IMPACT Magazine

NOT THE FIRST RODEO... Looking at past pandemics. By Chiang Ming Shun STANDING ON ETERNAL TRUTHS... Embrace the pain and prepare for the future. By Corné Bekker

THE STATE OF THE CHURCH By Gracia Lee WHAT COVID-19 HAS WROUGHT... Analysis and recommendations. By Tan Ern Ser DOING THE SAME DIFFERENTLY? ~ The Impact Panel responds ~ THE UNFINISHED SYMPHONY OF GOD... A shaking that rocked the world by Goh Yang Chye THE IDEA OF A CHURCH By John B Carpenter

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