by Phil Baker
The advent of the affordable automobile in the 1940’s led to the ability for families to live in suburbs and commute into the city for work and school. This also created a challenge for churches. Now people didn’t have to attend the church nearest them. They could drive as far as they wanted to attend any church they wanted. And this continues today.
I myself pass probably half-a-dozen churches of my preferred denomination on the way to my “church home”. Why? Because I have friends there. I’m connected there. Circumstance, life and God has lead me there. But most of all because I’ve made a commitment to that church.
It appears most people don’t see church as a commitment these days. We see it as an option, an opportunity or even an obligation. But not as a commitment. At least not the same way we view marriage as a commitment. And the Bible very often draws a comparison between the church and marriage, it being the “bride of Christ”. Attack the “sanctity of marriage” and you’ll have a riot on your hands. But talk bad about the “sanctity of church membership” and…meh.
This is evident in lackadaisical attendance and church hopping. People get discontent with their church so they just go to another. They start to dislike the pastor. They see or hear of a scandal in a deacons meeting. And so they go to a new church thinking it will be different. We treat our church membership like a box of tissues – use this one until it gets dirty, throw it away and pull out another one. If some people who joined a church by letter had to have an actual “letter”, it would probably look like a faded, wrinkled dollar bill no vending machine would take.
Why is this? Why does the “paradox of choice” affect so many churches? It is because we don’t love the local church. Think of church like your marriage. You love your spouse. But you don’t always like your spouse. There are days when he/she gets on your nerves or when one of you is sick. You may not like having to take care of them or doing the extra work, but you do it because you’ve made a commitment and because you love that person. Did your mother love you? Of course she did! But do you think she liked getting up at 4AM to feed you? Do you think she liked changing your diapers? No. But she did it because she loved you.
We have to love our local church. We have to commit to her like we commit to our spouse and our children. There will be times when we don’t like it. But marriage is hard. Parenthood is hard. Churchgoing is hard. So don’t treat your commitment to your church like a disposable paper towel. Treat it like you would your bride.