Complacency kills churches.
In the summer of 1991, an airplane crashed at sea. It was a Navy attack jet with two pilots that had suffered a critical failure during bomb-drop training in the Mediterranean Sea. The plane was in a tight spiral close to the water when the pilot pulled the ejection handle. At that point, automatic forces took over, ejecting one pilot up to safety, and the other down into the water. He was never recovered.
The analysis of the crash concluded that the pilots had failed to review bomb-dropping procedures prior to their flight. That’s right. A simple procedural review cost a man’s life. The bombs were dropped too close together and they exploded in a way that damaged the aircraft and caused the accident. At the time, Capt. J. M. Smith said, “The bottom line in this investigation is a lesson we have all sadly learned before. Complacency kills aviators.”
Complacency is a feeling of smug satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements. It’s the old, familiar “we’ve got this” sensation. And we see it all the time. Texting while driving? Yeah, I’ve got this. Texting while walking? What could possibly go wrong with that? Everything is fine. No problem. We’ve got this.
But what if we don’t? And what are the consequences of critical failure if we get complacent where it really matters?
The Bible tells the story of complacent humanity over and over. God establishes a relationship to mankind through covenants. A “relationship agreement” where God makes promises and sets expectations. In the Old Testament, some of the promises are blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience. And you know what? The people of Israel were disobedient. They wandered away from devotion to the one, true God. And God kept the promises of consequences for disobedience. The people forgot to review the procedures.
They got complacent.
God sent a series of conquering nations who destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. The place where the people met with the one, true God was demolished. It didn’t exist anymore. Because God is far more interested in hearts than in buildings. Over time, the Assyrian empire was replaced by the Babylonians and then the Persians. Foreign policy shifted from destruction to rebuilding and the Persian king began sending people back to Jerusalem to rebuild. The book of Ezra records the reconstruction of the Temple. The book of Nehemiah describes the building of the wall around the city and the Temple.
The political scene isn’t the only shift for the people of Israel and the return to their homeland. They moved back to God by repentance. They admitted their wrongdoing; they owned their sin. And that came back around to more of God’s promises. A promise of restoration when the people turn back to Him! The rejection of complacency is diligent ownership of our relationship to Him!
The book of Nehemiah records the story of one young man who decides to take radical ownership of this huge problem. He refuses to be complacent any longer. He owns it.
In the text of Nehemiah 1:1-11, we see the cupbearer to the king (vs. 11b) receive a report from the people who have come back to Persia from Jerusalem. It’s bad. The temple has been rebuilt, but there’s no protective wall around it or the city. Nehemiah hears this report and look at his response, “I sat down and wept.” The situation hits him “in the feels” and brings out a passionate response. He follows up with “for some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah was 55 days journey away from the problem. It’s far, far away and yet he responds with passion and moves to help. The first move is an extended conversation with God. He prays over the course of months and records the themes of his prayer:
- He adores God.
- He confesses sin.
- He gives thanks for God’s faithfulness.
- He asks for help. The fancy word for this is “supplication.”
Nehemiah’s response was the opposite of complacency. He heard the urgency of the problem and responded with ownership. He took radical responsibility for the whole situation and brought it constantly before the God of Heaven; the one, true God; the One who can empower him to take action!
People who watch trends in the church say that 90% of churches are losing touch with their communities. The news has come in, the church is in trouble. How can we stay on mission if we’re out of touch with our communities? We can’t. We need a page from Nehemiah’s playbook: let’s own the problem, and let’s pray for God’s empowerment.
Complacency is not an option: what kills aviators, drivers, and distracted walkers also kills churches.
Complacency. kills. churches.
Will you hear the message? Sit down and weep for the decline of the church.
Will you respond?
Pray! Set a time to ask for God to empower your response!
Fast! Set something aside as an act of devotion and commitment!