Part 2 of my recent article on reasons why apparently believing people might decline to get serious about their local church.
Do they grasp that the gospel is all of grace?
Without being overwhelmed with wonder at the grace of God there is no lasting motivation for Christian service. People will serve for a period out of duty, guilt or under the expectations of others, but where there is no joy in God a yawning chasm eventually opens up between their dutiful service and the fact that they have empty hearts. Ultimately the service is unsustainable because the inner motivation of knowing God in the heart simply isn't there. On the surface, teaching people that we are both saved and sanctified entirely by grace, without works, sounds like a recipe for thinking that they don't have to serve. In reality it works in completely the opposite way.
As people get to know God they long to be part of his purposes. Bill Hybels is fond of saying that he never finds it hard to ask people to volunteer their precious time because it is an invitation to explore the purpose of God for their life, and what could be more wonderful than that?
If people don't find the invitation wonderful we have to ask if they are enjoying God's grace. There is no power for service without his grace, no motivation to pray unless we believe we have a heavenly Father who is eager to answer, no reason to explain our faith if we are only inviting others to a religion of dutiful works. And until they are living and loving the gospel of God's grace we need to resist the temptation to try to get them to fully commit to the life of the local church because it will be on the wrong basis. They will receive the message that discipleship is participating in activity rather than loving God, or they will try to disguise lack of discipleship by activity and maintain that they are growing Christians because of their dutiful contributions.