A couple of weeks ago I picked up a book for my friend BT for his birthday (who, by the way, turned 5 this year thanks to February 29th) titled The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. Since BT is always reading books of mine, I thought I’d get him a book I’d like to borrow from him sometime soon. (Yeah, hurry up and finish reading it, why don’t ya…?) Anyway, there was a sentence on the back cover from one of the endorsers of the book that got my attention…something I’ve heard before, but seemed to recapture me at that moment.
This book will comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable and invite believers to change the world with Christ’s radical love.
Comfort the disturbed. Disturb the comfortable.
This weekend, my friend Ryan Shuping courageously shared some of his thoughts on the Church, it’s history and some of our current practices in how we understand and make sense of what we’re doing when it comes to the idea of church. Ryan’s journey over the last few years have uniquely shaped and refined his views of the Church and how he views and lives out his faith. (I won’t share all the details, so if you want to know more, you’ll have to ask him yourself.) After meeting him over a year ago, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hearing his heart and his thoughts on what he’s been learning and his honestly on thoughts and questions he still has about what it means to be the church. About a month ago, I asked Ryan if he’s consider sharing some of his thoughts at our worship gathering, which he agreed to. And I have to say, it was thought-provoking to say the least. After confessing to Ryan, I had to admit that some of the things he shared Sunday caused me to feel a bit uncomfortable. Uncomfortable concerning things I do and simply don’t think about. Uncomfortable concerning whether or not I completely agree with what’s being said. Ever experienced this? Uncomfortable thoughts and questions like, Much of the way church (not all, but most) operates today is inherited, not ordained; and Most weeks our gatherings are only encouraging people to do the same thing – to spectate, and Is our approach to preaching each week establishing that ‘my voice matters and yours doesn’t?’ and If a church’s success depends on its numbers and big gatherings, is that where the majority of its resources should really start moving to? Obviously, I don’t have the space in this blog to lay out the context and depth behind all these thoughts, but these are some I wrote down and have been chewing on this week. And before you start yelling, heresy, keep reading…
Do these questions/thoughts make you feel uncomfortable in any way? Whether we agree or disagree, for now, that’s not the point here. Let’s go back to this phrase of comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable. When you consider the life and ministry of Jesus, isn’t that what He did? Aren’t these some of the primary attributes that caused Him to became famous during His day? So then, the point becomes this: where am I so comfortable in my faith that I need to be disturbed, and where in my faith am I disturbed that I need be comforted? This is what Jesus comes to do.
I’ve been reading through Luke’s account of the life of Jesus this past month. On His way into Jerusalem – riding a donkey – Jesus was given a parade fit for a King (21:36ff). The people even proclaimed Him as the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Matthew’s account records that the people shouted Hosanna, referring to Jesus as One who has come to save.
And what was the response of the religious leaders standing by? Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that! Do you think they were uncomfortable? Disturbing the comfortable. Jesus responded, If they keep quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!
I do think it’s important to consider much of what we personally say and hear today when it comes to the teaching of the Scriptures and how reflects what Paul warned Timothy about in 2 Timothy 4:3: For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. For many of us, we’ve grown accustomed to only listening to people with whom we agree with, or demanding and encouraging them (if that’s what you want to call it) to say what we want them to say, what we want them to hear. For many of us, we have yet to truly wrestle with some of the deep issues and questions of our faith we’re afraid of or too lazy to confront. So instead of coming to Jesus directly about it first, we sometimes take our frustrations out on the voices whom he’s speaking through to disturb us where we’ve grown comfortable.
This probably opens up a big ole’ can of worms, and I could keep going here, but the question I want to raise is this: Do we, have the courage to ask God to disturb us where we’ve grown too comfortable? And if so, what could that cost us?
In a few weeks, I’m looking forward to having some of Ryan’s thoughts available to read through or listen to. Stay tuned.
One Reply to “Uncomfortable Christianity”
Great thought-provoking question pastor…and a timely one too as I am wrestling with very similar questions in my life.
No doubt that Jesus was a radical. He threw the religious status quo on its ear and challenged folks to look beyond the faith of their minds and peer more closely at the heart of the Father. This was something that had been missing since the time of Isaiah…another radical!
We have a tendency to get anesthetized and numbed in our church pews today. Not that tradition shouldnt have a welcome place in our church lives but when we cease to be challenged to take God out of the box we so often seek to put him in, we fall into the fallacy of believing that we have God all figured out…somehow reducing our need for Him and minimizing the incredible gifts of His Grace and Mercy.
Thanks for challenging us to thing differently today brother…