One of the current frustrations of community groups is a reduction in volunteers and dilution of commitment to regular attendance and involvement. Post Covid lockdowns, around 15% of folk have still to return to weekly church services and many returnees are attending every 2nd, 3rd or 4th Sunday.

Based on some sociology studies, Mark Sayers (Red Church, Melbourne – Rebuilders Podcast) suggests that this is due in part due to the move from ‘Should’ to ‘Could’ cultures. Plugging into weekly worship services and Sunday school for kids used to be the ‘done thing’, something ‘you should do’. Now, it’s one of many things you can do with a Sunday. So many activities can compete for our attention each day and week that it takes real determination and dedication to stick with any commitment, whether it be to an exercise regime, team sport, regular group, curriculum of learning, religious ritual or whatever. In a market economy and ‘Can / Could Culture’ it’s easy to get distracted and water down important commitments.

Take marriage, we’ve moved from ‘arranged marriages’ to marriages of choice, and, unless you protect your marriage with boundaries and maintain it with devoted disciplines you may find yourself questioning your ‘choice’ to marry. A wise pastor advised newly weds, “Love will not sustain your marriage, but marriage will sustain your love.”  If left to emotion & feelings we’ll never stick to commitments we make, but if we prioritise time for the most important relationships we’ll give ourselves a chance to feed our marriage, parenting, friendships, faith, work, etc with sustaining energy.

Were it not for my weekly: Tuesday mornings off with Dorothy; Saturday sabbaths & cycles; Lord’s Day worship; weekly Zoom prayer breakfasts / monthly check-ins with my mentor / daily quiet times and numerous other routines and rituals, my life would lack the rich blessings that flow from such rigorous engagement.

It’s no bad thing we’ve moved from a ‘should’ culture where legalism can breed a ‘hardening of the oughteries’ and Christianity is drained dry of passion & compassion. But, in our ‘could’ culture we can be so sold on our right to choose, mesmerised by multi-choice, and distracted from the most important relationships and activities by lesser goods. Left unchecked we end up making so many lesser choices with our time and energy that we talk ourselves, and families, out of the rhythm, routines & rituals which would have kept us on track with our significant others (not least God), who become less significant due to our choices (cf. death by a 1,000 cuts). As we journey through Holy Week we gratefully remember Jesus’ discipline, passion and compassion, which helped him endure dastardly death for us and open up a Way of Freedom, Christ’s service, which is perfect freedom.

As Ron Rolheiser says in ‘Domestic Monastery’, “There is only one non-negotiable rule for prayer: “Show up! Show up regularly!” The ups and downs of our minds and hearts are secondary.”

So, what are the most important relationships in your life and what are the rituals, rhythms & routines which will protect, promote, and prosper them? Be sure to “Show up! And show up regularly!”