Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Trying, Risking, and Failing

In a small town and a small church, there is always the very real danger of making “comfort” an idol of sorts. Nice traditions become unchangeable rituals. Weird congregational quirks get set in stone. “We’ve always done it this way” becomes a refrain meaning, “We don’t know why we do it this way, but we don’t dare change it now!” We know that what we used to do used to work, and because of our small size and limited resources, relying on the past seems to be the most comfortable way to head into the future.

Old habits die hard; I understand that. Not everybody is wired to be a risk-taker; I understand that. There is great value in tradition, ritual, and even comfort; I even understand that.

But the danger of comfort’s siren song is that when we expend all of our energy in pursuing the comfort of the familiar, then the church’s mission finds itself dashed upon the rocks. The purpose of the church is set aside. The church’s destination is obscured. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” becomes “We have built it, let them come.”

Repeating the patterns of the past may create a neat, orderly, and comfortable feeling, but I’d rather take the road that leads me to the messy but impassioned labor of storming the gates of Hell.

I believe that—missionally speaking—that a small church especially must learn to become comfortable in being uncomfortable. It must learn to take comfort in the cross while constantly pushing forward into the enemy’s strongholds in the community. It must stand upon solid doctrine while constantly challenging itself towards new and unfamiliar missional ground. It must embrace trying and risking and reaching while also refusing to be paralyzed by the fear of stumbling and failing.

The church’s heart beats faster when it loves the question, “What if . . .?”

The church’s life is lived more fully when it loves the answer, “Why not?”

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