I have to admit, recently I have become complacent.
What I do for a living is tough. I am the human leader of a nearly-twenty year old church. (When we turn 21, I think we are legally allowed to have alcoholic communal wine.) When I came to Heritage in 2004, it was a relatively comfortable place. Over the past three and a half years, we have been uncomfortable a number of times. We’ve lost big givers because of my views on Bible teaching (I think it should not only be accurate but also interesting and applicable), dress code (we don’t throw people out who come dressed “inappropriately”) and personality (NOTE: stating that you are not the former pastor’s clone is a bad idea). And when I say givers, I don’t mean just financially.
So you would think, with a church whose budget is much larger than her offerings and working a part-time job to make ends meet, I would not become complacent. I mean, I work hard during the week and there is always more to do. But I have become complacent. Ministering to the 50 or so who come every Sunday is easy. Meeting people’s needs (even those that require crowds or hospitals) is easy. Learning and leading new songs for worship is easy. I can do these things by rout. Even “challenging” people can become easy.
I hate easy.
It is fine when it comes to making dinner or fixing something around the house, but for ministry? Ministry is not supposed to be easy.
Being comfortable in ministry is a sin.
Most pastors would disagree with me. They think that after hard work for years, we deserve to coast, to have it easy. We are often lulled into this sense of accomplishment and self-worth that says “I’m doing good. We’ve got this down.”
Here is the reason why this complacency is dangerous. Consider air conditioning. We bought a house with central A/C and now, when it gets hot outside the A/C clicks on and we stay nice and cool. The problem is that we lose our perception of heat by comparison. We tend to accept the conditioned air as normal and the outside as “too hot.” But the comfort is the anomaly, not the heat outside. It is the air conditioned house which is the exception to the rule.
By the same token, when we get too comfortable in ministry, we view the heat of change or crisis as the exception when in fact, the crucible is the norm. We become isolated and used to the ease, so the struggle becomes worse. Our perceptions change. The world has always been a mess – since the THUD in the Garden of Eden – but inside our little religious cocoon, we get comfortable, which makes the world look even worse.
I love our church. It is awesome to see people transformed, and we do see that. But it is always those who come into the air conditioning. We are not bringing relief to the people.
Did you ever notice that Jesus never stayed in one place for very long? He was always moving. He told his disciples to keep moving.
And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place.
And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. [Mark 6:7-13, NKJV]
Jesus’ ministry was not locked to one place. He went to people. Three times Jesus used the illustration of a harvest for the ministry of the church (Matthew 9:35-38, Luke 10:1-12, John 4:34-38). Three times he reminded his disciples that people don’t come to you; you go to the people. We want to “bring people to Jesus” but do not bring Jesus to the people.
- Is Jesus not risen? He is risen. He walks among us, but only when we walk with him.
- Is Jesus not powerful? He is powerful. Power is only seen when there is someone for the power to work on.
- Is Jesus not the Word of Truth? He is truth, but not for us. He is the truth for those who live in the lie. They will not seek out the truth. We must bring the truth to them.
The church is the risen, walking message of Jesus. We are the caretakers of the greatest message people could hear; and we sit in our rows of chairs week after week, waiting for the “lost” to find their way into the fold.
If this not our time, then when? If this is not our place, then where?
We’re wasting Jesus’ time. Faith is not comfortable.