“Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.” —Proverbs 1:32, NLT
“I don’t care.”
“Let someone else take care of it.”
“Let’s just keep it the way it’s been.”
Complacency is disinterest, and when complacency is in the church, it can quickly become cancerous. When we hear someone make statements like these, it invites us into complacency, as well. If something isn’t important enough for one person to take action or care, it seems logical that it’s not important enough for anyone else to take action or care. We need to contain this negative attitude and replace it with a healthy, growing commitment to spiritual growth. First, let’s look at the signs of this “disease” in our ministries.
- Defaulting to tradition. How often do we stick with what’s been done because it’s easier—instead of choosing what’s most effective? What percentage of the time are decisions made based on tradition? Tradition isn’t bad in and of itself. When something continues to reflect God’s will, encourage and challenge people, and meet needs, we will likely choose to continue it. However, many traditions are maintained with little or no evaluation. It’s simply easier to say “That worked once, so it will work again.” That repeat-for-results philosophy isn’t effective. God’s principles don’t change, but the specifics of how we’re supposed to respond often change to keep us engaged in relationship with God.
- Expanding gray areas. Sin is sin. That’s not a popular concept in today’s culture, but what God says is wrong in the Bible is still wrong today. Yet we rationalize not taking a stand on some issues for various reasons. God is the judge, not us, but as we lead people to grow in their faith, we cannot ignore the Bible’s instruction. We can love people as God’s creations, because he created each person in his image, and he longs for each person to become more intimate with him throughout life. God sets the example of dealing with sin. Accept people who are clinging to sin, but help them experience God’s plan for releasing it.
- Diminished presence of fruit. How passionate are you about spiritually growing even when it’s not easy? In what areas is your church community growing? What gets people excited and involved? You’ll experience seasons in which spiritual fruit isn’t as plentiful as others, similar to seasons in nature. However, chronic barrenness is a significant problem. God promises to develop fruit in our lives, but we must rely on him throughout the process. Lack of fruit indicates lack of growth. Growth requires commitment and attention.
You can choose spiritual growth or complacency. You can’t have both at the same time. Invite God to reveal the reality of your spiritual condition. Then consider these approaches:
- Get God’s Word. People must be familiar with God’s Word in order to get excited about it. We’re rarely excited to get involved in something about which we know nothing. When looking for a television program to watch, we choose something we’ve watched before or is at least consistent with our interests. The more we know about God’s Word, the more we’ll choose the truth. A faith community must place biblical teaching as a top priority in order to weed out complacency and nurture commitment.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Consider the comfort of your weekly routine. Perhaps you attend worship services regularly. You know what time to leave your house. You sit in a preferred seat and know about how many songs and what length of sermon to expect. You see the same people and might even have a routine after worship services: going out to eat with friends or enjoying a relaxing meal at home. What if worship services, Bible study groups, and ministry meetings weren’t as convenient and accessible? What if your commitment involved a lack of safety? What if you were inconvenienced? Perhaps experiencing an inconvenience from time to time would be a good barometer for measuring personal expectations. We need reminders of where we are in order to recommit to where we’re going.
- Get a friend. Friends can pull us in many directions, including taking us away from God and into complacency. Choose someone who’s spiritually mature and willing to ask you questions and give you advice based on God’s principles, not popular opinion. Developing and maintaining friendships of accountability isn’t easy but is essential to fighting complacency. Left to ourselves, we’ll default to disinterest and rationalization. God brings relationships into our lives with purpose, and one purpose is to challenge one another to grow.
Whether you apply these tips to get rid of personal or church-wide complacency, your willingness to take intentional steps will result in faith-building growth.
“But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!” —Revelation 3:16, NLT
Susan Lawrence has been frustrated by complacencies in ministry, but has to admit to her own complacency at times. She’s trying to say, “No more!” and help women move beyond frustration to grow in faith.