The Dangers of Safe Church

January 13, 2004

[Danger: Conformity Hazard. Contains possibly new information which may stimulate independent thought]Darren posted a review of a book that I’d like to get, called The Shaping of Things to Come. The quote that really grabbed me was:

“Too much existing bible teaching happens to passive groups of Christians, many of whom are not involved in any kind of risky missional activity.”

Kay & I went out for a lunch date a few days ago, and I shared that quote with her. Then we went on to talk about music, and I told her about an interview I read with the French group Air, sharing their view of live performances:

“To give emotion, you have to be in danger. It’s more exciting. Onstage, when you are alone, when you sing alone, when there is no music in the background, you are in danger because everybody is listening to you. For example, when I’m singing, sometimes my voice is weak. So my only chance to make some interest to the audience is to give some emotion and play on the fact that my voice can be sometimes strange and emotional. It’s the only chance that I have onstage to be interesting. And so the more you push yourself, the more you are special, and the more you give some emotion, the more you are in danger, and it’s more exciting. And when you’re scared before you play onstage, it means that you are really an artist. Because when you’re not scared, it means that you are doing some bad music.

And suddenly, over lunch with Kay, the connection between these quotes struck me: When we’re not scared, are we doing some bad church? …What do you think?

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

14 responses to The Dangers of Safe Church

  1. Exactly… no risk = no faith … really.

  2. My copy of the book arrived yesterday – thank you, Amazon.
    Can’t wait!

  3. Rene, John Wimber used to say that “faith” was spelled r-i-s-k.
    Mike, I’ll be looking for your review of the book. 🙂

  4. Wow … bad church, huh? That is an intriguing parallel that you draw … We could all stand to be a little more scared I guess…

  5. And to think that we don’t even face the prospect of persecution and death like the early church members faced. Yet so many of us shy away from anything even remotely uncomfortable, let alone scary. We are too often only concerned with ourselves and our futures and figure that it is up to everyone else to figure it out for themselves (“He would never buy into it… too bad for him. As long as I’m going to heaven….”).

  6. We should spend more time in that ‘scary’ place. When we do, we know that the only one we can rely on is God. If there is risk involved we are usually not so eager to just walk into situations without first making sure that it’s really what God wants us to do. Risk keeps us closer to God, even if it starts as just a sense of self preservation.

  7. Safe gets your nowhere. You can’t make any progress if you’re not doing anything.

    • To what should a church be making progress? Of what should we be scared?

      • Wow, this post is coming up on its 9th birthday!

        Matthew, “Of what should we be scared?” I mean the fear that comes with taking a risk. John Wimber said, “Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.”

        “To what should a church be making progess?” I come back to the quote from The Shaping of Things to Come: risky missional activity. Stuff that gets us sharing life with people of the world, hoping (taking that risk) that the Holy Spirit will move in power.

        • But is that enough? We as Christians cannot have too high an opinion of Jesus, but your continual repetition of the buzz word “missional” has an unintentional effect of doing just that. Using “risk” as a synonym for faith downplays the Biblical themes of believing in Jesus, trusting Jesus, knowing Jesus. When I think about my question, “Of what should we be scared?” I would answer along this line: we should be appropriately reverent toward Jesus and focused on showing him to be as awe-inspiring as he actually is, as he shows himself to be in the Bible. In answering, “To what should we be making progress?” may I suggest that any response be framed in terms of knowing Jesus and/or making him known. He makes himself known as Christ, Messiah, Savior, Lord. The real risk is in saying, “Jesus is Lord,” yet that is the foundational truth of Christianity. We ignore or assume this to our own peril… and the world’s.

          • Why do you assume that emphasizing the Great Commission means deemphasizing that Jesus is Lord? Au contraire, mon frère.

            • I am proposing a sequence of priorities; firstly, emphasize Jesus as Lord, and only then does the Great Commission “work.”

              • Here’s how The Shaping of Things to Come puts it:

                Our Christology informs our missiology, which in turn determines our ecclesiology. If we get this the wrong way around and allow our notions of the church to qualify our sense of purpose and mission, we can never be disciples of Jesus, and we will never be an authentic missional church. Churches that have got this basic formula wrong never really engage in mission and so lose touch with Jesus. These churches spend all their time discussing (or arguing) about the forms of worship, the church furniture, and the timing of services and programs, and fail to recognize that our ecclesiology flows more naturally out of our sense of mission. These churches become closed sets as a result, and their experience of Jesus at the center fades into a memory of the time when they were really doing something. It becomes a matter of history rather than an experience of mission now. It is important to recover the idea that the church connects with Jesus through mission, not through getting church meetings right!

                Christology -> Missiology -> Ecclesiology

                • While I might quibble about the progression from Missiology to Ecclesiology, I definitely affirm that both are/should be rooted in Christology. So… tell me more about yours.