And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
My dog, Maile, sleeps in a kennel. She actually prefers it. I’ve had dogs my entire life, and she is the first one I’ve crate-trained. I will admit I was skeptical at first. It just looks so cruel! How can anyone be happy, being in a cage? But every night, when her eyes are heavy and it is time for bed, she voluntarily abandons the freedom of our bed and goes back to the limits and the restrictions of her tiny little bed in her little wire cage. Do you know why? Because it is familiar to her…and, for dogs, there is great comfort in familiarity.
People are a bit like that too. Church people are especially like that. No matter how antiquated, no matter how ineffective, we all have a tendency to return to the familiar, to the “way it has always been”, because it is comfortable.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews was fighting a battle which you as a present day church leader might recognize: the battle against the comfort of the familiar. It was a daunting task, getting the Hebrew Christians to persevere in the face of the persecution they faced and to stick with the very different forms of worship from those with which they had been reared. Gathering together as a church body every week with no sacrifices, no holy places, no sacred implements, no fancy robes, and with “traditions” which were all of one generation in age…all of these new ways had to hold the commitment of a people who had otherwise been steeped in their former traditions for hundreds of years. It is no surprise, then, when we discover there was a problem with Hebrew Christians “falling away”…abandoning the new covenant for the old, ineffective one.
The call to follow Christ is a call forward. It requires steady, constant, forward momentum in order to keep from falling. It leaves no room for moving backwards and it leaves precious little room for standing still either. Our role as leaders in the church is to be encouraging our brethren to keep moving forward and to persevere through difficult seasons. Like the writer of Hebrews, we must find compelling truths to lovingly propel the church forward. We must be ever reminding our friends of the failed systems they left behind, how far they have already come, and of the promises which lay ahead. And this leadership task is always, always before us…because always, always against us is the comfort of the familiar.
Like dogs in our kennel, we do not want to lose the comfort of our familiar ways. We are not interested in sacrificing in order to start new churches. Please don’t ask us to try new forms of worship, nor press forward with new friendships. We just want to stay here in the comfort of our tiny little cage. It is familiar.
Isn’t it interesting that, after 2,000 years of doing church, we still fight this same battle?
But fight it we must.