Sofas and pastors.
I tend to be elated when they are polar opposites.
I few years ago, we went sofa shopping. The first salesman said to us, "What style and color are you looking for?"
"We really don't care about color or style," I answered.
With a questioning look on his face he said, "Well, what ARE you looking for?"
"Comfort," I replied. "That's all we want. It just has to be super comfortable."
"Well," he said, smiling as he walked away, "I guess I really can't help you at all."
This is the same way I used to shop for a church and pastor many years ago. I wanted to feel comfortable. I would venture to guess many people use that same criteria. But I am a convert to uneasiness. I will never again use comfort as a measuring stick to decide where to worship.
Feeling comfortable with the church family and leadership? Of course. There needs to be respect, love, fun, and mutual caring. But beyond that camaraderie? Nope. Comfortable is not in my equation any more.
I have been in churches that have tried to be so comfortable, so "user friendly," that they either changed their name so as not to offend anyone, watered down the gospel or became so PC that there were no longer any moral absolutes mentioned. Sure it was comfortable. Nothing was expected of you, nothing was taught to be moved by. Sermons in those churches were Feel Good 101.
What I know to be true is that we can never be more as Christians and disciples of Christ without heeding those hard sayings, those difficult mandates of Jesus. And doing so does not always feel good.
The pastor that put me on this path was a dynamic young man named Cory who pulled me WAY beyond my comfort zone as I soaked up all he had to share about Jesus and how to be sold out to Him. Cory pointed me to biblical truths that rocked my understandings and dared me to step into a discipleship mode that was nowhere close to comfortable. I had to deal with new understandings in areas like sin, cross-centered living, holiness, and forgiveness. But it grew me in Christ to a depth I had never approached before Because of his ability to make me squirm, my prayer life was transformed, I fell deeper in love with Jesus, I went on my first mission trip, and I started memorizing verse after verse after verse of Scripture.
Soul-agitation is not like cuddling up into a soft pillowed microfiber sofa.
Scripture is laced with God's declarations that we will experience journeys of despair and affliction and bondage in this life. After all, Satan is in business, open 24/7, and never delegates his schemes to lesser demons. He tries his best to makes believers' lives miserable.
To traverse those jagged and harrowing roads, I know I need the faith-deepening maturity that comes through spiritual discomfort. "Comfortable" simply does not push me to get "my roots to grow down into Him and draw nourishment from Him so I will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth I was taught." (Col 2:7)
We have a new pastor at our church. I had been feeling way too comfortable in my spiritual walk, and I worried that a new pastor would not "bring the goods" that I really needed right now. Truth be told, we were ready to look at other church options.
Steve has only been here 6 weeks. The verdict was out on him about one week in. We all love him. He is a mover and a shaker. His sermons flow with the Holy Spirit's anointing. He is charismatic and energetic and grounded in the mandates and promises of Jesus. He speaks bottom-line truth about how to practically live out the "hard sayings" of Jesus.
And most importantly for me personally, he has made me squirm. He has brought tears to my eyes. Every Sunday he is reminding us of truths that need to be heeded and internalized, because they are things we all get too complacent about. At least I sure do.
Steve is an amazingly easy person to be comfortable around. But on Sunday mornings, he is not there to make us comfortable. He is there for soul-agitation. Man, that feels good again!! How blessed are we as a church!!
I love being in this place where God, through my pastor, is free to shake me up and test me and lead me into greater intimacy with Him. When comfort is a gauge, this cannot happen. I want to "keep working toward the day when I will finally be all that Christ save me for and wants me to be." (Phil 3:12)
Sofas? I want cushy and soft. Pastors? I want them to challenge me to squirm and grow.