A second realization that came from yesterday’s sermon on community was that I have expected too little from the members of our congregation. When I was initially coming up with some things that would motivate people to come to groups I noticed that we have gone to great lengths to remove as many barriers as possible to them attending a group. If groups are too far away, we try to add one in their area of the county. We limit their length so that people will attend. We do all we can to make people comfortable and able to attend. Do you think there comes a point in time that it all gets watered down and we miss the point?
When I was reflecting on these things during the week I realized it was all too small. The Gospel is not a call to convenience but to commitment. Our reason to participate in Christ-centered community is not how little we have to invest in it or whether or not it consistently makes us feel comfortable. If that is what people need to hear to get involved, their priorities have become worldly and we need to first address those issues before we can expect change. Jesus called people to crosses, not easy chairs. What if someone has to drive 30 minutes or an hour to get to a group? Is that bad? What if a group runs over or someone needs to give some extra time to someone who is hurting or serving someone? Is that bad? Of course not. But if we aim low in our expectations of others that is where they will end up. If we try to remove any and all inconvenience and barriers we will end up with people who are spiritually anemic.
I am ready to have higher expectations. I am ready to call people to the same things Jesus was calling them to. Some people in Jesus’ day didn’t want to hear it and that will be true today as well but we keep calling.
It is amazing how convenience centered we seem to be at our churches. I think it is a by-product of the influence of the church growth movement. The goal was to get as many people in as possible, so in order to do that we had to remove all obstacles and at times that lead to a cheapened view of discipleship. It also comes from our culture were convenience is emphasized. I hope your message was received well because it is important that we take back that commitment that the cross requires.
Convenience is overrated. AT the end, you end up with a little more time or a little more energy, but you don’t end up with a little more LIFE. How many times have I fallen for that lie.
What sort of monster have we created with our consumeristic churches?
I find myself battling these self-centered demands all the time. Holy Spirit come and set me free! I desire life, not more time or money or stuff.
I was listening to Matt Chandler speak last week and he talked about playing with his young children and washing the dinner dishes when he didn’t want to. He chose the better way, because he wanted LIFE not just an easier path. The pursuit of Jesus through faith and service brings LIFE (sooner and eventually later.)
It’s sad to think of the Christians who gladly risked their lives to be together and now we can’t get folks to drive to another county.
The early church met each other’s needs when they arose. IOW, they removed certain obstacles. I don’t think we need to be hard on ourselves just so we’ll feel like we’re leaning a little more towards the cross, and away from the easy chair.
Focus on the work. If people want to be a part of it, you won’t be able to stop them. If they don’t, there will always be a hindrance. You don’t need to go out of your way to make the work or the experience more austere just to prove who is a real disciple and who isn’t.
Remember, it was the Pharisees who tied heavy loads on the backs of the believers, and who didn’t lift a finger to help. The implication there is that lightening the burden of our fellow Christian would be a good thing.
I totally get what you are saying here and agree with it. However, I think this is one of those pendulum issues. That is why in scripture the guys who watered everything down were told to get more serious and the guys who put heavy burdens on people were told to lighten up. It depended on which extreme they were taking. My approach here is in response to a what I sense is a push for extremely convenient Christianity we are seeing more and more of today. I am not calling for legalism. I am saying maybe we shouldn’t be so big on motivating people by telling them we have made everything super dooper easy. Hope that distinction makes sense here.
I am so glad you wrote this. Did Jesus make Christianity easy for people? NO! He said they had to repent, obey his commands, and set even higher standards for the rules they already (like just looking at a woman inappropriately versus actually committing adultery). I think the church would be much better of with a smaller group of highly dedicated, driven and serving people than with a large group of people who are more concerned with the sweet and salty treats than serving their Lord.