What if We Applied “For Better or Worse” to Church Commitment?

What would happen if we had higher expectations of commitment, both in marriage and in church?

This desire for perfect compatibility is a problem. And that makes sense for a generation that’s grown up in a consumerist society where there are limitless options of brands and apps and genres and communities that can be tailored and curated in a perfect-for-me sort of way. We approach the church with the same mentality.

 

Picking the right spouse is just the warm-up for the real challenge of marriage. The hard part is sticking with our spouse and being faithful to covenantal vows. Even when our spouses change and we do too. Even when it’s arduous and inconvenient. Even when we get bored and more attractive options present themselves.

The same goes for sticking with a church.

The Problem of “Compatibility”

The ease with which Christians “break up” with a church these days reflects Western society’s relational woes. Church commitment in America is fragile for the same reason marriage rates are declining: people are more skeptical than ever of long-term commitments and less willing to risk a union with a partner who’s not the perfect fit. In 2012, 1-in-5 American adults ages 25 and older had never been married, while in 1960 only 1-in-10 adults had never been married. The median age for first marriage in 2012 was 27 for women and 29 for men, while in 1960 it was 20 for women and 23 for men.

Why this increased reluctance to get married? Pew reports that among those who aren’t married but desire to be married, three-in-ten say the main reason they aren’t married is that they “have not found someone who has what they are looking for in a spouse.”

This desire for perfect compatibility is a problem. And that makes sense for a generation that’s grown up in a consumerist society where there are limitless options of brands and apps and genres and communities that can be tailored and curated in a perfect-for-me sort of way. We approach the church with the same mentality.

Furthermore, our low-commitment mentality toward church parallels our cultural acceptance of no-fault divorce. We separate and go our own ways as soon as it becomes inconvenient. The church’s permissive attitude toward divorce has greatly undermined its witness. If the message a church sends is “no-fault divorce is fine!” then how can it complain when a longtime church member goes through a mid-faith crisis and starts “dating” the hip, more attractive church down the street?

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