Dear Church of the Mountain Family,
During seminary, I had a professor who said that the role of the pastor is to “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” If you are hearing that for the first time, you might find your spine stiffening. Yet there is some wisdom in that statement—certainly we are all tasked with the responsibility of being a soft place for the wounded, the grieving, the hurting, the lonely, and the struggling to land.
But to afflict the comfortable is something else. I understand that to mean, to motivate, to encourage, each other not to be complacent or apathetic. I remember a pastor once humorously saying that he didn’t even have to pray about his health anymore because he had excellent health insurance. Some consider church attendance the equivalent of fire insurance.
Where there is struggle, there is forced growth. Often when the church is under persecution, it flourishes the most. China is a good example.
A well-known theologian author, Francis Schaeffer once said that we live in an age where people will sell out for personal peace and prosperity. He wrote in his book, How Shall We Then Live:
“Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city – to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means an overwhelming and increasing prosperity – a life made up of things, things, and more things – a success judged by an ever higher level of material abundance.”
Lent is a good time to reflect on this—is it true? He wrote this in 1975. I hear it often, “I just want to be left alone.”
To engage with others in or out of church is to take an emotional, financial and intellectual risk, as well as to confront prejudices and conflicts.
During Tuesday evening Bible Study we wrestled with questions about how do we assess where we truly are in our spiritual lives? So we started a spiritual assessment tool/quiz; here is what we came up with. Perhaps we would be wise to attempt to use this tool to examine our lives during Lent and beyond honestly.
Am I too comfortable? In other words, do I clutch my comforts too tightly? Am I willing to let go of some of my comforts for the sake of others?
Am I sharing enough of what I have?
How much is enough?
Am I content with what I have, or do I always need more?
What am I doing with my excess?
Who do I not see in my everyday life, or who do I dismiss?
Do I set aside a specific time in my daily routine for prayer?
Am I where God wants me to be?
Do I do what I do for the glory of God, or for personal satisfaction and recognition?
What question or questions would you add to the list? I invite you to email them to me, and I will add them and continue to share them.
I would add: Am I taking responsibility for my part in the stewardship of our planet? Do I care enough? Do I do enough?
Let us together and individually consider these questions and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what is next? What are we being called to do? Ask that we can shake off the rags of complacency and apathy that we may be clinging to. May we go forth, and be lit on the inside with the fire of God in our bellies!
In His Name,