One of the ways I believe you can assess whether or not your church is maturing spiritually is this: The standards for leadership keep getting tougher as time passes. You keep turning up the heat every year, requiring a deeper level of commitment to Christ and spiritual growth.
Every time you raise the standards for leadership, you bring everyone else in the church along a little bit. A rising tide raises all the boats in the harbor.
Focus on raising the commitment of your leadership, not those who are the least committed in the crowd or even the semi-committed in your congregation. Whenever you raise the standard of commitment for those who are in the most visible positions of leadership, it raises the expectations among everyone else.
You must ask people for commitment
If you don’t ask people for commitment, you won’t get it. You have not because you ask not.
It’s amazing to me that many community organizations require more from participants than local churches do. If you’ve ever been a Little League parent, you know that when your child signed up to play, you were required to make a major commitment in terms of providing refreshments, transportation, trophies, and victory parties in addition to attendance. There was nothing voluntary about it! It was required if you wanted to participate.
One of the most helpful things a church can do for people is to help them clarify what commitments they ought to make and what commitments they ought to decline. Many people are half-committed to two dozen causes rather than being totally committed to the things that really matter.
The barrier to spiritual growth is not lack of commitment, but overcommitment to the wrong things.
People must be taught to make wise commitments.
Ask confidently for a big commitment
Study how Jesus asked for commitment. He was always clear and confident when he asked for it. He was not at all reluctant to ask grown men and women to drop everything and follow him.
This is an interesting phenomena: The greater the commitment you request, the greater response you will get.
People want to be committed to something that gives significance to their lives. They respond to responsibilities that give life meaning. They are attracted to a challenging vision. They want to be a part of something worthwhile.
On the other hand, people are unmoved by weak appeals and pitiful requests for help. Jesus knew this when he said in Luke 14:33, “None of you can be my disciples unless you give up everything” (GW).
Some pastors are afraid to ask for a big commitment, fearing they will drive people away. But people do not resent being asked for a big commitment if there is a great purpose behind it.
People respond to passionate vision, not need
That’s why most stewardship campaigns don’t work: They focus on the needs of the church rather than the vision of the church. If people were really motivated by organizational needs, then every time a need was presented it would immediately be met.
Be specific in asking for commitment
Another key of developing commitment is being specific. Tell people exactly what is expected of them. At Saddleback we ask people to commit to Christ, then to baptism, then to membership, then to the habits for maturity, then to ministry, and finally to fulfilling their life mission.
Explain the benefits of commitment
Another key to developing commitment in people is to identify the benefits of it. God does this. So many of the commands in Scripture have promises attached to them. I once did a study of the promises attached to God’s commands to be generous. We always end up being blessed whenever we’re obedient.
Explain the personal benefits, the family benefits, the benefits to the body of Christ and society in general, and the eternal benefits of committing to spiritual growth. People really do have an innate desire to learn, to grow, and to improve.
Build on commitment rather than toward commitment
Even though you tell people where you are taking them (by challenging them with a big commitment), you start with whatever commitment they are able to give. Begin with an initial commitment regardless of how weak it may seem.
We challenge people to make a commitment and then grow into it. It’s like choosing to become a parent.
Very few couples feel competent to parent before they have their first child. But somehow — after the decision is made and a baby is born — the couple grows into their parenting role.
You must find ways for people to take baby steps while also elevating your expectations of them over time. Your church will be healthier as a result.