Chapter 13 – Uncomfortable Commitment

From the book: “Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community” by Brett McCracken

“I love Jesus but not the church.” “I’ll go to church but only as long as it meets my needs.” (p. 179)

How often have you heard the statement “I am spiritual, just not religious”?

As stated in last week’s notes, there are several factors that impact this attitude.

  1. Our radically individualistic culture.
  2. Today’s sped-up world of instant gratification
  3. The internet facilitates sub-cultures.
  4. Social media amplifies tribalism.
  5. The idea that unity means groupthink.

However, our spiritual development is not something that we can isolate from others, especially the church body.

“It is both foolish and wicked to suppose that we will make much progress in sanctification if we isolate ourselves from the visible church.” (R.C. Sproul) [1]

“If we are in union with Christ, the head, then we are necessarily also connected to his body, the church. Neglecting the church is neglecting Jesus.” (Sam Allberry) [2]

This is a two-way street. Yes, we need to become part of the church, but the church must also reach out to us. Is the church supposed to just go along with this isolationist approach to spiritual development? Is the “Do your own thing” spirituality meeting the scriptural call to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations?

I’d argue that it is only the church’s challenging people to connect with and commit to the church body that brings about real spiritual growth. Consider The Source’s motto: Reach, Love, Grow, Repeat.

Reaching means connecting with others in the church. Loving is a relationship between people. Growing only happens when we interact with people different from us. We only continue to improve when we continue repeating this cycle. This happens only within the environment of the physical church. If the church is reaching out to you, are you responding and reaching back? Repeating also implies commitment. Doing and redoing these actions, even when we may find them burdensome or boring.

Janet Jackson’s song, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” represents this attitude we often have toward the church and even toward God. Our author refers to this as ‘Comfort over Covenant.’ However, Christ calls us to covenant over comfort. Covenant challenges us to a long-term relationship that goes beyond convenience. It is about an enduring relationship over immediate gratification. It’s not about what happens today or tomorrow, but what happens in eternity.

“No good thing comes easy, and the life you want is just on the other end of what you don’t want to do.” – John Lovell (a former Army Ranger) 

God initiated a covenant with us through the people of Israel.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face.” (Deuteronomy 7:9-10, ESV)

Time and time again, God dealt with the unfaithful Israelites. God drove them into exile three times: the Babylonians (423-372 B.C.), the Persians (372-348 B.C.), and the Romans (70 A.D. to present). He offered grace to them when they strayed. He restored them when they repented. The book of Hosea is an excellent metaphor for God’s desire to reestablish a loving relationship with people worshiping other gods.

“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’” (Hosea 1:2, ESV)

As part of one’s covenant with God, should be one’s covenant with the church universal. This then leads to a covenant with your local church. Becoming a member of a local church is a covenant. Each party pledges something to the relationship. If you became a member of the United Methodist Church, you took a vow to “faithfully participate in the life and ministries of your local congregation through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.” Here is a link that discusses the following five topics of that vow:

  1. A Promise to Pray.
  2. The Blessing of Presence.
  3. Sharing Your Gifts.
  4. Serving God and Others.
  5. What It Means to Witness.

Covenants keep us focused more on others and the future and less on our immediate selfish desires. And, yes, sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but:

“Covenants do something that is far more constructive than anything comfort can do. Covenants challenge us to bear with and sacrifice for the sake of others, for the glory of God. Covenants provide necessary checks on the freedoms we might think are liberating but are ultimately constrictive: to follow my heart wherever it leads; to engage or disengage from others whenever it’s convenient; to have no moral limits beyond what I establish for myself. Covenants free us from the prison of unlimited freedom.” (pp. 183-184)

Maybe the things at church that challenge us or make us uncomfortable are the same things that are trying to make us more like Christ. As fire refines gold, the fire of the challenges we embrace rather than avoid too refines us.

“This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:9, ESV)

“Good discomfort is a refining process, both in relationships with people and in our relationship with a church.” (p. 177)

[1] The Soul’s Quest for God: Satisfying the Hunger for Spiritual Communion with God. R.C. Sproul. Tyndale, Carol Stream, IL, 1992, p. 151.

[2] Why Bother With Church. Sam Allberry, Thegoodbook Company, 2016.

Similar Posts