Written by Bill Whitt
December 12, 2023

The Crisis of Comfort in Our Churches

Battling the tendency to do only what is comfortable may be the single most important change we can make to get our churches back on mission.

Michigan winters can be brutal. Some days it never gets above freezing. Worse still, the sun doesn’t come up until after 8:00, and it will remain hidden by clouds most of the day.

  • I have a safe place that shields me from the bitter cold — underneath my cozy covers. Unfortunately, warm blankets rarely provide the setting for accomplishing my dreams and making forward progress in life. At some point, all of us have to get out of our happy places and take on the world!

A similar dynamic is at work in our churches, where clinging to comfort can keep us from moving forward. In fact, an unwillingness to move beyond what feels familiar may be the single biggest factor keeping churches stymied, plateaued, and dying today.

  • Battling the tendency to do only what is comfortable may be the single most important change we can make to get our churches back on mission.

Here are a few simple ideas to help you recognize when comfort is holding you back and get you moving again.

Five Ideas to Move Beyond Comfort to Mission
Idea 1: Take off the Rose-Colored Glasses
  • The culture of many historic churches is dominated by nostalgia. As members and leaders curate storylines about previous pastors and seasons of ministry, they naturally tend to focus only on the good times.
  • While it is helpful to praise God for what he did in the past, the stories we tell can end up being more like fables than reliable history. This can prevent us from moving forward.
Idea 2: Recognize the Changing Cultural Context
  • Even if a certain ministry model really did work well in the past, there is no guarantee that it will work well in our present cultural context.
  • A warning label should be attached to all nostalgic thoughts: “Past performance may not be indicative of future results.”
  • We must be ruthless in our evaluation of what works today and what does not.
Ideal 3: Name the Danger
  • By definition, comfort feels good, but it can actually be incredibly dangerous. Churches that hit the snooze button one too many times may find themselves silently drifting toward irrelevance and ineffectiveness.
  • As leaders, we must constantly remind our people of the danger of drifting. While coasting is easy, it is usually downhill. Drifting rarely leads us where we want to go. By contrast, it is the hard work of hiking uphill that will get you to the mountaintop.
Idea 4: Link the Model to Mission 
  • What can snap people out of slumber? A mission that is too important to leave on the back burner! The only thing that can inspire churches and church members to get back on mission is… well, the mission — the mission we all share, the Great Commission.
  • As leaders, we must intentionally communicate how constantly changing ministry strategies support the never-changing mission of the church. If we do, people will see the big picture and be inspired. If we do not, people will assume changes are random and resist them.
Idea 5: Tell a Better Story
  • I have a lot of sympathy for people who want to return to the past. The past is, by definition, known. By contrast, the future is unknown.
  • Unfamiliar things can be scary, so it is our job as leaders to demystify what the future will look like. Unless we paint a picture of the future that is at least as bold, detailed, and colorful as the past, our people will never be excited about change.

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