Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Something less than cruise control

In The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, author Jerry Bridges compares two types of spiritual obedience – cruise-control obedience and racing-car obedience.

“…We press the accelerator pedal of obedience until we have brought our behavior up to a certain level or ‘speed.’ The level of obedience is most often determined by the behavior standard of the Christians around us. …We want to just comfortably blend in with the level of obedience of those around us.” And then we hit cruise control.

I know what it’s like to be on cruise control.

Been there, done that.

And often it’s less than cruise control. Call it “cruising just enough to get by. Barely.”

I know what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. You serve in a church for 15 years – children’s ministry, adult Sunday School, small church, prayer commission, occasional teaching on Sunday night, greetings ministry, short term missions trip. And then you watch the ground shift from underneath you, as a handful of congregational and staff leaders decide they want the church to become the next Willowcreek.

It didn’t work. It nearly destroyed the church. We left for another church home, and I dragged the decision out because I kept hoping something would change. It didn’t. We stayed too long.

A new church, with all the difficulties of finding new ministries to plug into, new people to meet, new Sunday School class. It wasn’t easy, but we kept at it and had begun to establish new friends, new networks, new ways to serve. I even became a deacon.

And then – déjà vu all over again. The change for “growth and relevance.” Our Sunday School class was eliminated, and the one we switched to was eliminated. New programs implemented. Big media emphasis. I raised a voice and was reprimanded.

I didn’t have it in me to fight again. All the change eventually ended the same way as before – upheaval, staff changes, people leaving. We stayed put. I didn’t have the energy to change churches yet again. But something else happened. We stayed put, but I withdrew.

My focus turned away from the local church toward a para-church ministry. I got serious about writing, and published two novels and a non-fiction book. We still attend church regularly. The upheaval has calmed down. The teaching is good. Support for missions is strong.

But I stayed on cruise control. Or something less.

It’s not a good place to be.

Of course, no one ever said that faith was easy.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. To see what others had to say on this chapter, “Obeying the Great Commandment,” please visit Jason at Connectingto Impact.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Martha Jane Orlando said...

Such an excellent example of what faith on "cruise-control" looks like, Glynn. We're in a precarious place in our church at the moment with all the changes going on, but I am determined to keep my faith awake and aware through it all. Thanks for your inspiring words today!

Wise Hearted said...

This spoke to my heart Glynn for since coming home from the over seas mission to a stateside ministry I have found myself often on cruise control. The ease in the US does not bring much of a challenge to live on the edge for Christ. Just recently my heart has been challenge to get back into the battle for souls through some messages are associate pastor is teaching and from watching some video's by Ann Grahamn Lots on prayer. It's my choice to just float through the Christian life or plant my feet on the soil of His Word and be obedience to His command to tell the whole world about His love. Your post along with Martha's and Jason has challenged me also, thanks.

jasonS said...

It's costly to invest yourself in a local body. You do get hurt, no matter how great the church may be. But it's sad to me so many never even try. Yes, it's painful to invest but I want my life to mean something beyond me, to serve and love as He would. Thanks for doing that, Glynn. Thanks for giving of yourself and putting yourself out there to speak even when others didn't want to hear it. We need so much more of this in the church. And thank you for these words as well.

TC Avey said...

Finding a churich to be apart of can be very difficult. Sad that this is so.
Yet there are so many opportunities to serve but we must be willing to put ourselves out there. It's hard for me to step out of my comfort zone but I'm learning that it's where God shines brightest and where He is able to do more both in me and through me.