When things are going your way watch out! You may be living in the danger zone. For many churches and spiritual leaders when we live in comfort we may actually be in more danger than when we live in a time of crisis. Comfort subtly seeks up and robs churches and pastors of their vision and passion. When all the bills are paid, and the people are getting along it is easy to fall asleep at the wheel like a drowsy driver on a long straight stretch of “driving in place” across the Panhandle of Texas. Crisis creates urgency, passion and at times panic, but comfort lures people into complacency, simply going through the motions.
Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, warns about the dangers of comfort in his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev. He diagnoses the dangers of comfort in a very direct and disturbing way for many of us who find ourselves going through the motions in ministry.
“The comfort zone is the place a church commonly falls into once they learn how to survive…At this point, the propensity is for the church to settle in, accept its size, and slip into a mode of maintenance. At some point, the people will move away or die, others will get bored, and slowly the church will begin a cycle of decline unless it intentionally reinvents itself missionally to continue to grow by taking risks in an effort to reach lost people for Jesus.”
Sadly, this appears to be the place that most churches in America find themselves. Awash in a sea of people, churches have become closer to country clubs than hospitals, and slipped into the comfort zone. Statistics bear out this reality in harsh numbers that report that 70-90% of churches in America are either on a plateau or declining. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently confessed he believed that most of the SBC church will die a slow death over the next twenty years—dying of “cancer of the comfort”.
Where did the fire go? Do we need a spiritual awakening in the pew or in the pulpit? Are we the proverbial frog in the kettle that has been slowly cooked by our changing culture environment?
Jesus and Paul stand out as clear biblical examples of leaders who had an unquenchable spirit about reaching people and changing the world. Even when Jesus had the “whole city at the door” he was not satisfied to stay put and establish his own version of a mega-church, but rather slipped away unannounced to touch the surrounding villages—because “that is why I have come.” In similar fashion Paul was relentless in his pursuit of people for the sake of the Kingdom. Paul noted to his friends in Corinth that “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22b).
How often can we honestly say we have used “all possible means” to reach our community? Watch out when things are going good, you just might doze of and miss the next turn toward becoming all God wants you to be.