By Ms. Sarah Phua
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash
COMMITMENT – THE WORD FOR THE POST-PANDEMIC SEASON
24 Feb 2023
The Pandemic’s waves of fear, uncertainty and self-preservation have tested Christians’ definitions of commitment; the ones having survived its attacks, emerge stronger than ever.
The others find themselves yielding to the Pandemic’s challenging other – Convenience.
The language of convenience sounds all too familiar;
“See how, if I’m not tired then I’ll come…”
“I can get the entire church experience online, why do I need to physically be in church?”
“I already come for service do I really need to go to cell group?”
When Christianity gets difficult or makes unpleasant demands, convenience finds an easier way.
Churchlife Resources recently ran an online training where there were several churches represented. They shared this similar sentiment: in the past people took effort to come, now “if free then come, if not tired then come”.
Everyone is so used to “consuming church” from home. There is a culture of convenient Christianity that seeps into the church when we are not wary.
It’s not that these people do not see the benefit of community, rather it’s that the perceived inconvenience of the commitment outweighs the perceived benefit. So, people choose experiences that require less of their time, energy, and attention: if I have to serve, let’s just do the easiest thing.
“Everyone is so used to “consuming church” from home. There is a culture of convenient Christianity that seeps into the church when we are not wary.”
One of my big pet peeves–and it’s a stupid one–is whenever I’ve had a long day, I sit down on the sofa to finally relax, and reward myself with a nice cup of coffee, my husband says,
“Hey, that looks nice can you make me one too? Or,
“I’m in toilet, can you help me grab a towel?”
It matters not, when I’ve just sat down, I’m simply not getting up!
How silly it is from Christ’s perspective, that I can’t even get up to serve someone I love!
However, we do the same thing with God and His ministry: we don’t really want to commit, we just want to “worship God here” …and be comfortable!
The Church is called to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and make disciples. But how do we do that in a culture that increasingly values convenience over community? Much of ministry depends on relationships, which requires time and effort to develop.
What happens when to people we’re called to reach when we aren’t willing to invest the time and energy required to create those connections?
Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21).
Nothing is convenient about what it cost Jesus to redeem us: he was foreknown before the foundation but made manifest. The second Person of God chose to come as Jesus Christ, where his entire life was a commitment to holiness and purity, where he suffered till death and fought till resurrection. At his inconvenience, He became our way to God.
So, when we carry the language of convenience we cheapen what Christ has done for us, because Jesus exemplifies and calls us to commitment rather than convenience.
“Nothing is convenient about what it cost Jesus to redeem us. So, when we carry the language of convenience we cheapen what Christ has done for us, because Jesus exemplifies and calls us to commitment rather than convenience.”
What is one thing Christ wants us to commit to?
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
God has called us to be in a community that actively grows and shows love to others. While churches have been encouraging people to return to physical services and onsite church to worship, we need to recognise that it’s not just about “coming back” but rather about “connecting”.
Committing to Connecting
We are grateful for technology that enables us to have virtual gatherings, worship services, teaching, prayer meetings and even digital missions. However, there is little substitute for face-to-face discipleship.
Connection is key! This can happen online & needs to be intentionally encouraged when distance and disease separates us. And it is also possible that connection may be low even during onsite meetings if it is not intentional, however, there is no substitute for being present in-person when connection is intentional and deliberate. Why? Because discipleship is more than just transferring information, it is about relationships and connection. This happens best when you connect over a meal and when you connect through laughter and tears in formal and informal settings.
Indeed, the main purpose for the cell group (or any community) is our sanctification, not comfort – and sanctification is usually uncomfortable. It’s not about what we are hoping to get out of a community. It’s about what God wants to get out of us out of us through the family He grafts us into—as Hebrews 10:24-25 describes community’s purpose–it is for our sanctification.
“One thanksgiving I had over the pandemic years was for my cell group. Despite the opening-closing and the increasing-decreasing meeting numbers, I saw how commitment to community looked like.”
One thanksgiving I had over the pandemic years was for my cell group. Despite the opening-closing and the increasing-decreasing meeting numbers, I saw how commitment to community looked like. Whether it was 2, 4 or 8 pax, everyone adapted and was ready to come to connect – online or onsite — and we grew stronger because of it!
Henri Nouwen in his book on Spiritual Direction, talks about the spiritual discipline of Community. When I first read that, I was surprised how I missed it – spiritual formation is rooted in relationship with God and one another.
Community is a spiritual discipline!
Ms. Sarah Phua is an Associate Consultant at Churchlife Resources.
She runs an accountancy company and serves as strategic church-staff, and loves to see plans strategically align up to fulfil God’s purposes!
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