But, God loves us and knows what he is doing

Commitment (The "C" Word)


Jack Vondra

There's an old church axiom that says "Ten percent of the congregation does eighty percent of the work." the number of active, participating members is probably somewhat higher on average, but the point is the same: a small percentage of a congregation does almost all of the work. That leaves the great majority that doesn't want to be a part of the "active" church body. By their own choice!

This creates some problems, especially in a small church. It's hard for the minority to absorb the disinterest of the majority. It leaves that active minority with two options: press on in spite of the lack of interest, or bow to the majority and do nothing. The first option will only work part way. The minority can vote to support a project, but it would also have to foot the entire bill (in time, effort, and funds) or watch the project fail for lack of support. The second option defeats the purpose of having a congregation in the first place. If we aren't going to do anything, why meet?

The first option is actually to do the best we can with what we have. It's the normal mode of operation in most churches. It works only to the limits of the active minority. It isn't completely successful because there isn't any unity of action with the benefit of sharing the load. Thirty people get overloaded far more quickly than ninety people. While thirty people can have a meeting and vote to spend church funds in particular ways, they can't have a meeting and obligate the support of ninety people. While the meeting of the thirty may be a legitimate meeting as far as the church organization goes, and its decisions may be binding on the "church body", its an empty action as long as the collective "church body" couldn't care less what happens. It's especially significant when there isn't any excess of funds or help and new projects need new support. No support, no new projects, no growth.

Interestingly, the do-nothings wouldn't be content if their level of disinterest was shared by the entire congregation. They expect things to get done, they just don't want to be the ones doing them. They're fairly fussy about how things get done, and won't hang around long if they aren't satisfied. It's easier to leave it than to fix it.

What would your reaction be, if you came to church service next Sunday (the morning service, of course; you have better things to do in the evenings) and there weren't any bulletins because nobody wanted to bother with getting them printed, copied, and handed out. You'll have to get your own chair from the stack along the wall, because no one wanted to come early and set them up. Please don't mind the mess on the floor, no one came in to clean this week (too busy). How about the music? Too much time and trouble required to get ready, so the music team decided to quit. Pastor was pretty busy during the week, so he didn't get around to preparing a sermon. Oh well, maybe he can ad lib for half an hour and then we can get out of here in time for the big game on TV. Just how important is a well-run worship service?

It's no big deal, though; things do mange to get done, so your help probably isn't needed, anyway. Let the other folks do it if it makes them feel better - why should you be bothered since you have so much else to do. I mean, you have a family to raise, and a home to manage, and a job to go to. That's enough to keep anyone busy! Guess what - so do the others!

The funny thing is, the ones who don't have time to help out can still find the time to criticize. Their main problem with "the church" is that "the leadership" make up their minds beforehand and just ram their agendas through, so why should they get involved? You know why that idea is so easy to spread? Since seventy percent didn't show up, that left the remaining thirty percent to make the decisions and get things done. Things get done without them, so the seventy percent don't feel like they're a part of the action. And they're not!

As Baptists, we believe strongly in congregational rule. The will of God will be found in the determinations of the entire body. The strength of the body and the power of its decisions lie in its ability to come together in unity. As a church body we share a common goal and meet together to work toward that goal. Without meeting together, there is no unity; and without unity, there is no purpose. Ninety are three times as strong as thirty. This lack of commitment thing is said to be a "sign of our time." Well, someone once said not to be conformed to this world.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

What will it be? A soldier in God's army (even a private has a purpose - no job is unimportant), or even a tourist, passing across the battleground (look at me, I was at the battle!). It takes more than an entry on the membership roll to make a member. Commitment - the "C" word: it's part of the burden you agreed to carry when you promised Jesus that you would follow and obey Him -when you asked Him to be Lord of your life.

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

The Complaint of Jacob        

The Complaint of Jacob by R.P. Nettelhorst

       Jacob’s life was not a particularly easy one and his family life, both growing up, and then as an adult was certainly what would fit the modern definition of being “dysfunctional.”
       So, to say the least, Jacob was not at all happy. The one true love of his life was dead. Joseph, his favorite, the oldest son of his beloved, had been dead for twenty-five years. And now Simeon had been taken from him, and this monster in Egypt was demanding the last link he had to his dead lover. Beside himself with grief, we find his reaction in Genesis 42:36 where it all comes down to this:

Their father Jacob said to them, "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!"

       And certainly it was the case that the circumstances of his life, from his perspective, from the perspective of his sons standing around him, made his complaint fully reasonable and perfectly understandable. And yet, the fascinating thing about his words, for those of us reading the story, is that we know that he couldn’t be more wrong, despite the fact that his words seemed so obviously true to Jacob – unassailably true, in fact. But we the readers of this little episode, know something that Jacob doesn’t: we know that Joseph is not only not dead, but he is second in command in Egypt, the most powerful and most wealthy nation on the planet at that time. We also know that there’s no way for poor Jacob to know that.
       So the reality of Jacob’s existence is that everything could hardly be better. His favorite son has done very well for himself, thank you. Good job, and great future, with money to burn. Poor Jacob simply doesn’t know this yet. His perception, his perspective of reality, is incorrect.
       And we, the readers, can do nothing to alleviate Jacob’s suffering just now. And God didn’t do anything about it either. It’ll be another year before Jacob learns the truth of what his life is really like. For twenty-five years he mourned for someone who was not dead at all. He bemoans his fate as a miserable one, though his family is absolutely powerful and prosperous. But he doesn’t know any of that; in fact, he has no way of knowing any of that.
       September 11, 2001 was thus an exceptionally bad day (to say the least) and raised numerous questions in the minds of many people about the nature of existence, about the goodness of God, about what it is really, that God wants and expects out of all of us. How do we live in a world where this sort of thing can happen? How do we face the crises of life, both small and great? Is there some key to life, some playbook we can get, some list we can follow, some formula we can memorize that will get us through life in one piece, with ourselves and our families living productive and prosperous lives? What does Jacob's complaint tell us about our relationship to God and the world?

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John of the Apocalypse        

John of the Apocalypse by R.P. Nettelhorst

       If everything in your life went wrong, wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus came and told you why? “Why doesn’t God do something?” It was a question heavy on John’s mind. He had seen all his companions bleed and die; thousands of his compatriots had been slaughtered by a brutal tyranny. It seemed such an odd way for God to treat his most faithful servants. John was just a lonely old man exiled for his beliefs on the island of Patmos. And then Jesus unexpectedly showed up with good news and an explanation.

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