Editor’s Note: This article is the fourth in a series exploring seven temptations of the western Church, based on Jeff Christopherson’s novel, “Once You See.”
(Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)
All of us at one time or another have been physically lost. Perhaps, momentarily as a child you absentmindedly wandered away from your parent’s sight. Do you remember those feelings? Anxiety. Dread. Panic. Do you recall the feelings of relief when your parents found you. Those are overwhelming and unforgettable moments.
I grew up near the vast forests and lakes of Northern Saskatchewan. It was a place where vacationing children frequently wandered away from their family’s campsites and found themselves in immediate danger. Nothing but disorienting miles of unending forest with few roads, landmarks, or positioning points of reference. Family searches quickly escalated to all-campers’ searches. With no quick resolution, massive search parties of neighbors, concerned citizens, and trained bloodhounds soon convened under the skilled coordination of forest rangers. It becomes a highly focused mission with one only one permissible outcome: find Johnny and bring him safely home.
As a child, I was friends with a boy who spent multiple days in the forest all alone, lost. His only comfort in those terrifying days was the confidence that his mom and dad were in that same forest desperately searching for him. That hope gave him the courage to press on. He made a wise decision to stop trying to save himself, stay still, and wait for his parents’ rescue. And several frightening days later, rescue came.
All of us will agree that being lost is a terribly distressing thing. But there is one thing that is actually worse.
Being lost and knowing that nobody is looking for you.
Which leads us to the fourth temptation of the Western Church.
Passivism: The Temptation of Comfort
Searching for lost people is always difficult. It’s always inconvenient. And it’s always uncomfortable. It means that we abandon our lakeside vacation, and we begin to tromp over fallen trees and through creeks deep into an inhospitable mosquito riddled environment.
But the thought of the lost one, and his or her loved ones, propels an army of weary, bug-bitten legs forward, step by difficult step. With full knowledge that the lost one has no navigational tools for self-rescue, the search party selflessly presses forward in their life-or-death search and rescue mission.
Would this metaphor accurately describe the North American Church? Or are our churches more often designed for the comfort and preferences of the lakeside loungers who prefer not to mess with mosquitos?
“I prefer ancient, theologically rich hymns.” “I prefer rapturous worship.” “I prefer…” and we fill in the blanks with our sacred partialities. And we, as church leaders, in an effort to attract the profitable lakeside crowd, market our churches by connecting similar world-view preferences into a singular irresistible offering. And to ease our spiritual conscience by our overt neglecting of Jesus’ mission, we paint hollow sentiments on our church signs that unconvincingly say in a variety of ways that “Everybody is welcome.”