Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Commitment

A Daily Dose of Discipleship

Zig Ziglar, motivator extraordinaire, once said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

Ziglar was right. All of us have important daily rituals and habits: bathing, brushing our teeth, checking our bank balance, catching up on email, reviewing our schedule, calling or texting children or parents or siblings, reading the newspaper or watching the news, counting calories, drinking so many glasses of water, etc. We all know that when we stop doing these things, bad habits and bad consequences follow.

What Ziglar says about motivation is also true of discipleship. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9.23). Following Jesus is a daily event. Discipleship demands daily commitment, daily service, daily attitude adjustments, daily goals, daily decisions. 

That means there’s no moment in your day when you’re not a disciple of Jesus. Every action, every relationship, every decision, every word, and everything you do is filtered through the lens of your relationship to Jesus.

When you’re at work, you’re a disciple of Jesus. Whether you’re the CEO, an accountant, an engineer, in HR or marketing, or if you’re making minimum wage flipping burgers, you’re a disciple. Whether you’re dealing with the boss, your coworkers, or your clients, you’re a disciple of Jesus.

When you’re at home, you’re a disciple of Jesus. Whether you’re dealing with your spouse, your children, your siblings, your parents or grandparents, or even your next-door neighbors, you’re a disciple of Jesus. Every day, your relationship to Jesus determines how you treat your family.

When you’re on vacation or on your day off, you’re a disciple of Jesus. If you’re traveling, you’re a disciple. If you’re puttering around the house, you’re a disciple. If you’re by yourself away from the noise and distraction of your normal routine, you’re a disciple. If you’re surrounded by ten thousand other people, you’re a disciple.

All of this means that every day we should remind ourselves that we’ve made a lifelong commitment to the Lord Jesus. It also means that every day we follow through on that commitment. We need a daily dose of discipleship.

Church Dropouts

Why do people quit going to church? It’s an oft-asked question. A 2006 poll by LifeWay Research supplied some interesting answers (see the chart below). All the respondents were adults who had stopped attending church regularly. The average length of time these adults had been out of duty was 14 years.

Several things stand out on this list. First, the majority of the excuses blame someone or something for falling away: family, job, cliques, or church members somehow caused the member to stop attending. It’s the other person’s fault. Second, the excuses seem awfully shallow. They remind me of student excuses for not doing homework: “My dog ate it.” Third, they consistently reflect a lack of proper priorities in life. Work, family, and distance become more important than a deep and personal spirituality; more important than a nurturing environment with fellow Christians in the local church.

Perhaps the most glaring omission on the list was the one thing that would explain virtually everything else: Lack of personal commitment to Christ. Would it be too much for someone to simply say: “I don’t care about Christ. I don’t care about his church. I don’t care to live a godly and spiritual life.” The Lord deserves an honest answer: “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you” (Malachi 1.10). Jesus said: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3.15f).

Commitment to Christ precedes all other commitments. It’s the absolute denial of self and a whole-hearted willingness to give up all that defines our relationship to him (Luke 9.23-26). But that devotion to him also bears fruit in devotion to others (Hebrews10.19-25). You can’t be concerned about Christ without being concerned about his people.

Thus, those who are committed to Christ are also committed to their fellow Christians in the local church. In Syrian Antioch, those who “turned to the Lord” and who resolved to “remain true to the Lord” were the same disciples who became “the church” in that community (Acts 11.21-26). In Philippi, the Christians there were concerned about needy Christians in Judea. They expressed that concern by a generous financial contribution. Even Paul, who knew them well, was impressed when, “they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8.5).

The only effective way to reduce the attrition rate in local churches is to increase the commitment rate. That is, each disciple in the local church must first be whole-heartedly committed to the Lord. When that commitment is in place, things like distance and busy-ness, cliques, hypocrisy, and all other sorts of potential obstacles will not prevent someone from serving Christ.

One other observation from the survey: Over two-thirds of former churchgoers are open to the idea of returning to church. So, there are good opportunities around us to reclaim the lost and to motivate the marginal. All it takes is commitment.

Top 10 Reasons People Quit Church

Simply got too busy19%
Family or home responsibilities prevented attendance17%
Church members seemed hypocritical17%
Church members were judgmental of others17%
Moved too far from church17%
Work situation prevented church attendance15%
Church was not helping me develop spiritually14%
Stopped believing in organized religion14%
Church was run by a clique that discouraged involvement12%
Got divorced or separated12%

*Survey respondents could “check all reasons that apply”, so the answers total more than 100 percent. From Life Way Research ( Conducted summer 2006. Survey of 469 adults who once regularly attended church, but now no longer do. The average length of time the respondents had not reguli1rly attended was 14 years. Two-thirds of the respondents were open to the idea of regularly attending services again.