Putting on warm clothes, fresh out of the dryer.
Enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
Receiving a giant hug from your spouse.
Eating just out of the oven, homemade bread.
What do all of these images say to you? For me, they all speak comfort. Where in life are your safe places; those places where you can let your guard down and just be your true authentic self?
Comfort can truly be a good thing. We all need moments to unwind from the busyness of life. Personally, I relish the down times when I can carve out a few moments to do absolutely nothing. Maybe watch a movie, read a book, cook a new recipe, head to the gym, or enjoy a latte at the local coffee shop. Sadly, these moments don’t happen often enough. I am not opposed to comfort. In fact, I love it! The trouble is, I love it a little too much. Couldn’t this be said of us all? As humans we tend to be drawn to familiar, safe places, places that are known and create inside us intense feelings of comfort and security. There is a dark side to comfort, that when fully embraced as a need versus a moment of respite, it has the allure of preventing us from seeing and living as God’s intended children. Comfort taking the place of calling; ministry trumping mission.
Have we become too comfortable in the church, allowing ourselves to be lulled into a sense of self-security? Are we more concerned about personal comfort rather than sharing Jesus? What would it look like if we lived in a way that Jesus mattered most? Where is the urgency and zeal of an apostle Paul today?
Alan Hirsch is an author I love to read. He has a way of drawing me to a place of deep thought. Whether I agree with him or not I walk away challenged, refreshed, and encouraged. He is a prolific writer in the church today. One of the thoughts he writes about in The Forgotten Ways speaks to letting mission be the guiding principle for our church, not ministry. He writes, “Experience tells us that a church that aims at ministry seldom gets to mission even if it sincerely intends to do so. But the church that aims at mission will have to do ministry, because ministry is the means to do mission.” (236) Mission helps us see a bigger picture God is at work to create. There is an important connection and relationship between the two. We must move toward a way of church that looks beyond thinking about mission and ministry that is “either/or” but to live its tension in a “both/and” relationship. Mission and ministry go hand-in-hand, one informing the other in a dynamic, life-giving way.
Check out the following video from Alan Hirsch, which really challenged me in many ways to think about who we are as the church today. I hope and pray it does the same for you too:
Continuing some of the thoughts from the above clip, here is an excerpt from Hirsch’s book:
And what makes phenomenal Jesus movements so dynamic is that they actually involve movement; this does not just describe the organizational structure and system, but the fact that there is real motion. This is not to say that every Christian literally left home and family to follow Jesus, but that the foundational spiritual transaction of laying down all in the name of Jesus was at the very base of all of their subsequent following. In this way they had made an abiding decision to enter into the liminality of leaving securities and comfort when they first became Christians and so didn’t have to try and factor it in later. This meant that they remained a liquid people, constantly adapting and evolving, depending on context. This was to continue until Constantine gave us buildings and an institution and a bond between church and state that was to put Apostolic Genius to sleep for a long, long, time.
We need to hit the road again. We are the people of the Way, and our path lies before us, inviting us into a new future in which we are permitted to shape and participate. In trying to rearticulate the nature of authentic Christian community, that of a communitas formed around a mission and undertaken by a group of uncertain but brave comrades, by evoking mythic imagery from great stories and calling to mind how Jesus and the early church went about spreading the message, we evoke that yearning and that willingness to undertake an adventurous journey of rediscovery of that ancient force called Apostolic Genius. (Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 241)
I would like to close with a quote Hirsch includes in his book, The Forgotten Ways, that pointedly reminds us of the church’s call: “The ship is safest when it is in port. But that’s not what ships were made for.” (Paulo Coelho)
May we rediscover God’s call in what He, the God of the Universe, has made us for … to make disciples.
Let us strive to trust God’s creative hand at work before us as we seek to live out the Gospel Mandate in Matthew 28. We can’t do this task, but God can. Our best efforts at church will fail, but we follow and worship the Lord of the Church who seeks to expand its message through us to the next generation and beyond. Wherever we are at, it is our journey with God that is important, not the particulars of the road we are traveling upon. The crucial thing is for us to keep moving forward, allowing the Spirit to blow fresh wind into our sails, leading us toward the oceans and ports He places in our path.
I don’t know about you and where your safe places are located. We all have them. The truth is, our safest place is not found within the protected walls of a port but rather to live in the Mighty arms of our missional God. It is time to “be” the ship that the Shipbuilder lovingly hand-crafted with beams from Calvary’s holy mountain … forgiven, loved, and sent.