As the New Year approaches, many people are considering New Year’s resolutions. Some of us, however, may simply be complacent about the New Year. There is nothing inherently spiritual about New Year’s resolutions, but there is a problem with complacency. Are you battling complacency in your ministry?
Let’s get one thing straight. Complacency is a killer. That smug sense of satisfaction, the settled sense of security with the status quo can ruin ministry. A.W. Tozer said, “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth.” How do you know that this killer has crept into your ministry? Here are the five telltale signs.
- You depend on tradition. Tradition is more than the wearing of robes, the reciting of creeds, and the carrying of candles. Tradition is something that can pervade any church, regardless of its denomination or history. When we depend on tradition, we stop depending upon something else — the Bible and the Spirit. When that happens, we’re on a rapid descent to destruction. There is nothing wrong with tradition. There is something wrong with depending on tradition.
- You tolerate sin (but it’s just the little ones of course). Sin is sin. And it’s bad. Don’t tolerate it. The church is to be a place of healing for sinners, but a Holy God doesn’t wink at iniquity. He sent His son to die for that iniquity. That’s the only reason the church welcomes sinners — because by God’s grace, sinners are reborn with Christ’s righteousness. Do not tolerate sin in your own life. Exercise church discipline upon unrepentant churchgoers. Tell people what the Bible says about sin. The sad thing is, those “little” sins often lead to bigger ones. Letting a few things slip leads to bigger coverups. It is beyond tragic when the church becomes a cover for rapists, thieves, and child molesters.
- You see no fruit. When Jesus cursed a fig tree for its failure to produce fruit (Mark 11:12-14), he gave us a sobering lesson. Empty religiosity, devoid of fruit, needs to die. The parable of the fig tree doesn’t end with Jesus’ withering curse. The very next verse tells us that Jesus walked into the temple and began to dump the piggybanks and kick over the chairs of traveling animals stores. The spiritual complacency of these religious people had reached the place where they were letting animals defecate in the temple precinct, swindling the poor travelers who were coming to sacrifice, and making a total mockery of the entire event. If Jesus walked into your church, what signs of complacency would he need to root up and throw out? Where would his whip land? If your ministry is marked by a total lack of fruit, beware. Obviously, there are seasons in which fruit may not be forthcoming, but longterm barrenness is a problem.
- You’re not pursuing spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is marked by an aggressive pursuit of God. We desire his fellowship, his people, and his word. A life that lacks prayer, Bible intake, and neglect of spiritual nourishment is a life that has slipped into complacency. It is a dangerous place to be for very long.
- You focus inwardly, not outwardly. One of the surest signs of complacency is spiritual navel-gazing. A church that is self-absorbed is not a true church. Why? Because they are neglecting the very mission of the church — the mission to spread the good news and make disciples (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8). When a church is absorbed with just its own activities, its own problems, and its own people, it has become complacent.
“Security is mortals’ greatest enemy,” wrote C.S. Lewis. But what kind of “security” are we talking about here? Complacency makes us feel secure, but feelings can lie. When security rots into complacency, and complacency eats into our soul, we are in grave danger. This is spiritual warfare, and we must wage the fight against complacency.