Q: Many older people in the church look back on their lives and believe that they were in church "every time the doors were open." Many younger people, with their busy schedules, do not believe that is a fair expectation. What should commitment look like in today's world?
A: I am not sure the quality of commitment is lower today than in days past. In some ways I think it is higher, actually. With today's faster paced, more stressful lifestyles, anyone's commitment resembling that from 30 years ago is at a higher level. This is due to the increased personal cost such dedication takes in today's world.
The fact that today's commitment to a church looks different than it did 30 years ago is a certainty, but this difference is not necessarily bad. A pastor's desire is still for people to arrive at a place in their lives where they choose God-things over other anything else every time, especially when there is personal cost involved. This needs to be an inner drive and desire within people and never something legislated from the pulpit, board, or committee, whether informal or elected.
Remember that we engage with people who are sometimes church- and God-ignorant. We are working under the Holy Spirit in this transformation process of making "fully devoted disciples" of Jesus. To expect absolute commitment right away is wrong. Such devotion has to be mentored, taught, prayed about, preached, and lived out by the "saints."
Progress in this area is a good and welcome sign. Regression is often a sign of a spiritual malaise that needs to be addressed and perhaps confronted by a loving pastor or a spiritual "parent" who has bathed this with prayer first. In my opinion, commitment to God and His Church is different from involvement in every church activity.
Being busy is not the same as being dedicated.
Thinking of church commitment, my thoughts go back to my younger days. My parents raised us that if there was a service, we were expected to be at church, and we were there the biggest share of our time. This included three weekly services (two on Sunday and one midweek), plus the occasional weeklong revival. Priority on attendance at church services and meetings, especially revivals, sometimes meant foregoing other activities, such as school functions.
Church attendance was not the sole factor in our spiritual development, however, we benefited each time we attended as we turned our thoughts toward God and toward our relationship with Him. At those services, the Holy Spirit might speak to us, nudging us to draw closer to Him and make some life changes.
Missing a service meant we had missed an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to God. Granted, there were not as many things competing for our priorities at the time.
My four brothers and I are all Christians today. I believe that frequent church involvement strengthened our Christian experience and helped us prioritize our lives, keeping God first. Later in life, it became easier to keep the priority of church attendance, and others such as paying tithe first out of our income.