A good friend told me this weekend that I think too much. She may be right, and it set me to thinking….what else? I was reading this article by Ed Stetzer about trends in Christianity and the collapse of nominalism (i.e., being culturally Christian, or Christian “in name only”). This is not just an issue for Christianity but for many ideologies and organizations in today’s world. How we invest our time, money, influence, and social capital, in general, is very telling of who we are and what we value.
Stetzer points out that more and more people who may have previously considered themselves nominal in their beliefs are more straightforward in where they stand on faith. This is evident in the decline in church involvement among “nominal” Christians. This got me thinking about how we make decisions and what affects our choices in terms of “showing up for stuff”.
When we roll out of bed on a weekend morning (or any day, really), what motivates our choices? On a workday, you might be tempted to say, “Well, I have no choice.” Truth is, we choose all the time…sometimes, wisely, sometimes, not so much. What reasons most compel us?
- Entertainment/Freebies/Perks – Adventure and travel are included in here, as well. So much to do….so little time. And the free stuff? We all know that “what’s in it for me?” voice in our heads. Nothing innately wrong with any of this, unless it becomes the driving force of our choices.
- Food/Fitness/Rest – Church potluck dinners are the best – like eating Sunday dinner at our grandmother’s (if she’s a great cook, that is). No food? Hmmmm…not as interesting. Same goes for sporting or other physical activities, for many of us. We thrive on stuff going on all the time. Rest can also be a draw, especially when we get to take a break from usual responsibilities (having access to a great children’s program, for instance).
- Good Cause/Purpose/Fulfilment/Right Thing to Do – We all show up sometimes for a good cause or because it’s the right thing to do (whether it’s working on a disaster relief team or going to see your folks at Christmas). For Christians, obedience to God’s Word comes in here.
- Learning, Training, Equipping – There are times, we don’t necessarily choose this (as in a job situation when we need a new skill whether it interests us or not). In a church setting, this is a draw if it’s meaningful for our particular life situation. This is also a choice out of our love for God and wanting to be equipped for His purposes.
- Inspired/To Be Inspired/To Be Inspiring – I love to worship God in the company of others who love to worship God. The sense of His presence and His pleasure during sincere, unified corporate worship is one of the dearest experiences of my life. Then there are the stories of God’s activity in people’s lives. This is definitely a reason that I choose to show up when the church gathers.
- Belonging – We all want to belong. Belonging is deeper and grander than community (although some may argue that they are one and the same). Belonging is knowing you have a place, that people receive you in with whatever quirkiness or imperfections you have. Belonging is being valued for the person you are without any frills and not needing to try to fit in. I choose belonging whenever I get the opportunity.
- Community – Community is a gathering of people who share similar loves or competencies or goals. Community is something we all need, as well, and we’re willing sometimes to do what we have to do to “fit in”. Community does not necessarily mean belonging in the deepest sense of that experience, but it’s a start in that direction.
- Desperation/Need – Sometimes we show up somewhere (church or wherever else) because we need what we hope to find there. Church should definitely be a gathering of people who are willing to be arms around the needy and kind hearts/clear heads for the sake of those in dire straits. We have all been there.
- Should Go/Show or Mandatory/Obligatory – Here’s a reason to show up that none of us want to acknowledge, and yet, it could be true. Can it be that there are days that the only reason we show for church is that icky feeling of “well, I guess I should go, since there’s nothing else really happening.”? Or, think of situations outside of church. Have you ever had a work retreat with “forced fun” built in? None of us really want to HAVE to choose an affiliation or activity out of guilt, shame, or obligation.
- Checklist/Approval/”Get Out of Hell Free” Card – and last is the grand experience of “checking it off my list”. Eat healthy – check. Pay the bills – check. Go to the gym – check. Call your grandmother – check. Some sort of religious activity? Check. Oh…there is no “Get Out of Hell Free” card, but you already knew that. Enough said here.
You hear it all the time about how short life is…if you have even read this far, you may very well forget the message by the time you next check your current social media. What I wish I could communicate better is that our lives matter – our choices matter – and where and how we show up matters.
[Joshua speaking] “If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods… We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.” – Joshua 24:15-16, 18b