A little over twenty years ago, a leading authority in the field of church administration advised clergy not to use the word “commitment” around baby boomers. He warned that it would drive them away because commitment in any area of life frightens them. Five years later, the same leading authority reported that baby boomers were attending high expectation, high commitment churches in disproportionately large numbers. Those churches were growing. We discovered that low expectation, low commitment churches like The Episcopal Church were declining. While we were soft-peddling commitment, our members were leaving us for churches where it is required. I resolved at that time that I would never soft peddle commitment again.
When George Rupp was President of Rice University, I heard him say, “There is no life without community and there is no community without commitment.” Think about it. Without commitment, families, organizations, athletic teams, work groups, companies, and nations fall apart.
One task of an interim pastor is to challenge the church community in transition to clarify its present identity in preparation for a new pastor. One way to foster that new sense of identity is to ask the members to measure their level of commitment in light of our Church’s teaching that, The duty of all Christians is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God. (BCP, p.856)
I realize that some people may be as allergic to the word “duty” as they are to the word “commitment.” But most reasonable people will acknowledge that fulfilling our duties is a necessary aspect of keeping our commitments in daily life. In fact, the phrase “relieved of duty” carries negative connotations. And why would anyone think that duty to God is any less important than duty to family, team, country, etc.? Throughout history, many people have expressed the conviction that duty to God made it possible for them to fulfill all the other duties of their lives.
I invite you to examine your commitment to your Christian duty. Make this an opportunity to take the next step in your faith journey. Is there a way to follow Christ more closely? Can you join your fellow Christians in worship more often? Is there a place of service to which you are being called? Is there room for improvement in your prayer life? How about your giving? Is it time to move up another step toward the spiritual discipline of tithing?
Do yourself and your church community a favor and reflect on those questions as you prepare for Commitment Sunday. At The Church of the Good Shepherd, commitment cards will be distributed during the services. We’ll complete them together and bring them to the Altar as an act of worship. Make this time of transition a time of renewed and increased commitment. Ask God to use you in new ways to help the Church be all God wants it to be.