By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
Just how much do we value feeling comfortable? I believe the preaching over the last 15-25 years reveals that modern Christians in the New Testament church want sound preaching, as long as it doesn’t force us out of our comfort zones. We want to be able to sit back and listen to a well-prepared preacher from padded pews or chairs, and then slip right back into our normal walks of life afterwards. The take home message: “Don’t convict me too much and don’t weigh your lesson down with too much application. Because then you’ve gone from preaching to meddlin.”
So what happens when a family truly engages in the Culture War? Or what happens when someone begins to really carry out the great commission? Having traveled all across the country I have had the pleasure of meeting individuals who “get it.” I have spoken to Christians who desire more than comfortable Christianity. They understand the gravity of the situation, and they are doing whatever they can to ensure the spiritual well-being of their children/grandchildren, all the while looking for ways to reach out to the lost around them.
The problem is these individuals often make “comfortable” Christians in their own home congregations feel very uncomfortable—and this discomfort often results in an internal battle. Maybe it’s because these zealous Christians desire to study the Bible deeper and spend less time on fluffy topics. Or maybe it’s because they won’t allow their children to participate in certain worldly activities. Or maybe it’s because they are constantly pointing out additional ways the congregation could outreach. Or maybe it’s because they are tired of all the “internal” programs.
Whatever it is, these individuals often stand out—like a fish trying to go upstream against the current, when all the other fish are swimming downstream. Their existence among comfortable Christians causes friction. These zealous Christians honestly desire to be Holy, and so their entire lives focus on how to be more Christ-like and how to share the good news. Yet, they are surrounded by people who are comfortable right where they are—people who believe they have checked all the right boxes, and therefore they don’t want someone constantly reminding them they could be doing more or could be shaping their own lives better.
Many older Christians view these zealous Christians in a critical fashion. Rather than support the quest of those who want to be more Holy, comfortable Christians end up tearing them down and question how they are raising their children. After all, they believe if it was good enough for them, then it ought to be good enough for everyone. (These are the same comfortable Christians who totally ignore the real statistics of how many of our children we are retaining in the church.) And sadly, these zealous Christians wake up and discover one of their toughest battles is actually in their own congregations.
I have seen it all over—people who earnestly desire focus their entire lives on Christ who have been basically ostracized by those who have grown comfortable in the pew. Some of these “comfortable” Christians describe themselves as pillars in the congregation, and yet they stopped growing spiritually years ago. For those of you who are zealous and looking for more ways to follow after Christ, let this be an encouragement to you. Do not grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). Keep on teaching your children His ways. Keep on distancing yourself from the darkness of the world. Keep on looking for ways to tell people about Christ. Don’t be satisfied with the “norm.”
For those who are comfortable—might I suggest you consider your ways (Haggai 1:5,7) and examine yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5)? Have you ever considered what your discouragement is ultimately doing to His kingdom? Might I suggest that comfortable preaching has duped you into thinking you are a pretty good person. And maybe you are when compared to the world. But you are not so “good” when compared to a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). Stop using the world as your standard. Repent from trying to dim the light of those who seek to serve Him more faithfully. Tame your tongue and look at the fruit (Matthew 7) that a comfortable life produces, versus one who is truly committed to Christ. Stop trying to silence those in your congregation who desire a closer relationship with Him and look for ways to relight your own fire. Stop warring against brothers and sisters in Christ and go after the real adversary! The reality is we are on the same team—isn’t it time we started acting like it?!