Four Ways to Overcome Complacency as a Church


In a 2013 Washington Post article that issue was addressed from a business perspective.  What is interesting is that if you didn’t know it was addressing the workplace you would swear Jesus wrote this blueprint.  Over the next two weeks, I will discuss how we overcome complacency in the church.

  1. Stay on guard.
  2. Share the mission. …
  3. Recognize exceptional service. …
  4. Correct poor performance. …
  5. Avoid routines. …
  6. Ask for feedback. …
  7. Reward employees. …
  8. Strike a balance. [1]
  1. Stand Guard.

In Matthew 25 Jesus compares the Kingdom of heaven to ten virgins, some were ready and prepared others were complacent and not ready.  Here is the end of that passage, 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

When we talk about what is missing in the church today it is this sense of readiness.  We have fallen asleep at the wheel.  The church has gotten too comfortable.  I visit many churches and rarely do I get that sense of urgency like the mission is urgent, the opportunities are fleeting, time is short. There is much long-range planning or very little planning at all.  Imagine how this attitude would avoid taking ministry and the work of the church for granted.

  1. Share the mission.

97% of the world has heard of coke-a-cola

72% of the world has seen a can of coke-a-cola

51% of the world has tasted a can of coke-a-cola

Coke has only been around 124 years (1894).

If God had given the task of world evangelization to the Coke company it would probably be done by now. – Source Unknown

It is important to remember all people matter to God.  To keep our people and God’s church focused, lift up the mission often. What a powerful message we have for the world. “However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead because of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!”Ephesians 2:4-5

3.   Recognize exceptional service.

Exceptional service to God and His kingdom begins with the right heart attitude.

  • Self-righteous service comes through human effort. True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside.
  • Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.” True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service.
  • Self-righteous service requires external rewards. True service rests contented in hiddenness.
  • Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results. True service is free of the need to calculate results.
  • Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve. True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.
  • Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims. True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.
  • Self-righteous service is temporary. True service is a lifestyle.
  • Self-righteous service is without sensitivity. It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive. True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it.
  • Self-righteous service fractures community. True service, on the other hand, builds community.

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, “The Discipline of Service.”

  1. Correct poor performance.

During the American Revolution, a man in civilian clothes rode past a group of soldiers repairing a small defensive barrier. their leader was shouting instructions, but making no attempt to help them. Asked why by the rider, he retorted with great dignity, “Sir, I am a corporal!” The stranger apologized, dismounted, and proceeded to help the exhausted soldiers. The job done, he turned to the corporal and said, “Mr. Corporal, next time you have a job like this and not enough men to do it, go to your commander-in-chief, and I will come and help you again.” It was none other than George Washington.- Today in the Word, March 6, 1991.

I drove my congregations nuts because I never settled for poor performance in the parish.  My rationale was this work that we are called to do is too important, the mission too critical, the One we serve demands and deserves more.  After all, this Ancient of Days gave us His very best to redeem us, out of love for Him I want to give excellence back.  So, when I found people struggling to serve, I first came alongside to find out why?   Then I either helped them to improve or found a place better suited for their unique gifts and talents.

A December 2011, article in USA Today analyzed a surge in a group of Americans called the “spiritually apathetic.” They aren’t atheists. Instead, according to the article, “They simply shrug off God, religion, heaven, or the ever-trendy search-for-meaning and/or purpose. Their attitude could be summed up as ‘So what?'”

The article pointed to the following statistics from recent surveys:

  • 44 percent of respondents told a Baylor University study that they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19 percent said, “It’s useless to search for meaning.”
  • 46 percent of respondents told LifeWay Research that they never wonder if they will go to heaven.
  • 28 percent told LifeWay that “it’s not a major priority in my life to find deeper purpose.”
  • 18 percent denied that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.

One professor of religion concluded, “The real dirty secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal.”

Here is the real problem with complacency, it is not limited to the church, the unbelieving world has not only stopped asking questions about eternity, no they don’t even care.  Church, it’s time to wake up and realize that people will not start flocking back to your doors.  You have to get re-engaged and go after the unconnected and disinterested. The mission is outside our walls, among a people who feel they have no need for God.  The opportunity is great, the mission urgent.


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