I am not sure I understand Mr. Vaters’ fourth change he sees affecting churches.

Vaters seems to say two different things in his point #4:

4. The Way People Commit Is Changing

I do not understand what it means to say that “the way people commit is change.”

There is only one way to commit to something. You give yourself to whatever it is to which you are making a commitment. You make space for this thing or person in your schedule. You assume some responsibility for this dimension in your life. You organize your life, your time, your resources to include this thing, or person, to which you have made a commitment. You shape your life according to this priority. There are no different ways to commit.

But, in going on to explain how “the way people commit is changing” Vaters says,

If people aren’t committing to the things they used to commit to, we need to offer them something better to commit to.

This is not the same thing as changing the “way” people are committing. Is it that people are changing “the way” they are committing, which seems impossible to me, or is it the things to which they are committing that is changing? This second understanding of point #4 raises an important question for churches.

What commitment is it to which we desire to call people in the church?

Vaters offers a chilling answer to this question. He goes on under point #4 to say:

You can read more about this in my previous post, People Won’t Commit to the Church Any More? Don’t You Believe It

It may make me a terrible church leader but I do not want people to “Commit to the Church.” It is one thing to be committed to the truth and beauty we experience in the person of Jesus, in the world, and in other people. It is something quite different to be committed to an institutional expression of that deep mystery that is Christ. I long for the former and fear the latter.

If our primary aim is to get people to “commit to the church” we risk creating an institution that runs on the kind of human organizational energy that is the mainstay of secular organizations and communities. There is nothing wrong with human organizational energy in its place. I want my bank to be organized by people who are deeply committed to operating efficiently, effectively, and in as consistent and disciplined a manner as possible. I want my bank to be an orderly tidy disciplined place. But the church is not a bank.

The church is an organic organization that exists to be responsive to the disorganized wind of God’s Spirit. I want people to commit to following wherever that Spirit may lead and to be open to the wind of that Spirit in whatever way it may blow.

As soon as we commit to a certain formal structure, our hearts begin to close. We lose touch with the openness and flexibility that are the hallmarks of a community imbued with the unpredictable Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus may lead us to places that are less tidy, less organized, and more uncertain than we might hope. But this is the living way of Jesus who called his disciples to “follow me,” and then walked the unexpected path of the Spirit into places his followers could never have imagined.

May our first commitment be, not to the organization that exists to encourage us to open our hearts to Jesus, but to the power of love and light in which the church seeks to encourage us to live.