There’s a lot of negative data about churches today. Attendance is down. Conversions are down. More churches are closing or on the precipice of closing.
But the future for churches is not all doom and gloom. In fact, we’re seeing a trend of higher commitment among core church members. While the commitment level must eventually expand beyond the core membership for a church to experience healthy growth, we’re optimistic that these committed members will positively influence other members.
Part of our research has shifted to these core members. Why have they remained committed, and why do they desire to grow in their commitment? Their responses are both encouraging and promising.
In our interviews, they told us five key reasons they’re “all in” at their churches.
1. Commitment to a church is thoroughly biblical.
The core members we interviewed understand that Christian joy emanates from Christ and obedience to him. At least intuitively, they realize the New Testament from Acts 2 through Revelation 3 is about the local church, or at least it was written in the context of the local church. Simply stated, you cannot be joyfully obedient to Christ with nominal or no commitment to a church.
You cannot be joyfully obedient to Christ with nominal or no commitment to a church.
2. Commitment to a church engenders accountability.
After the first church started in Jerusalem, Luke describes their initial activity: “All the believers devoted themselves to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, NLT). These first church members understood that their Christian life was communal, not a solo act. They thus devoted themselves to “fellowship,” a term that meant more than potluck meals. It meant taking care of one another and holding one another accountable. These believers lived in an adversarial culture and engaged in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10–17). They needed each other.
In our interviews with committed core members, we heard that same theme. Committed church members understand they need the inherent accountability that comes from being in dedicated fellowship with other believers.
3. Commitment to a church creates a pathway to fully and deeply study Scripture.
The committed core members we interviewed seek to grow as believers through a commensurate commitment to studying the Bible. In most of our interviews with these members, we heard they studied Scripture in three ways.
First, they had their own personal study and devotion time—often a plan to read through the Bible in one year. Second, they were active in a church small group where Bible study takes place. Third, they hear the Word in weekly sermons.
We heard from many of these core members that the digital church they moved to during the pandemic was insufficient for a robust study of God’s Word. For them, it has to take place in person.
4. Commitment to a church is necessary for Great Commission obedience.
No wonder so many churches are on a path of decline when evangelism is decreasing at such alarming and accelerating rates.
But committed members, it turns out, desire to share the gospel consistently; they just admit obedience is sporadic on their own. They thrive evangelistically when the church as a whole commits to proclaiming Christ together. It gives them a plan and a system of accountability. Our research shows an incipient but growing evangelistic movement in churches, and God is using these committed members as the catalyst.
5. Commitment to a church is good for families.
We didn’t anticipate comments about their families in our interviews with core church members, yet it’s common to hear that a healthy church benefits marriages and children. Some members noted articles they’ve read about the correlation between committed church membership and families’ health.
The most joyful and selfless people we know are Christians committed to their local churches.
As our researchers continue delving into committed church membership and its apparent benefits, we anticipate the data will prove even more hopeful. Our early conversations indeed point in that direction.
For now, we feel confident making a simple anecdotal statement. The most joyful and selfless people we know are Christians committed to their local churches.
And we have good reasons to believe their influence will spread for the glory of God.