The “comfort zone” is nothing new in Christian circles. We’ve been talking about this for decades. Many church leaders recognized that in creating churches as a safe refuge (a good thing) resulted in the unintended creation of a culture of comfort (not so good). You may be wondering what the difference is, as it can be a fine line, and that’s a great question to ask!
When comfort is the priority we shy away from the things that bring discomfort, such as taking risks, confrontation, critical thinking, and self-reflection. However, we need adversity in order to help us to grow spiritually, mentally, and relationally. On the contrary, when we feel safe we can practice the things that might cause discomfort because we know we will be loved and cared for by our God and our community. This is why we talk about creating safe space and going beyond our comfort zone. In safe spaces, there is room for discomfort. But comfortable churches are often one of the most unsafe places to be if you have questions, want to go deeper, or don’t fit the precise mold of the community.
One of the practices of adaptive work is to name our comfort zones and to actively experiment beyond them. In doing so we learn more about ourselves, our current limits and strengths, and open up space for the Holy Spirit to work through us in new ways. It is important for us to find safe people to work with an foster a safe environment of acceptance that is not based on accomplishment or conformity but upon the unconditional love of God and one another.
Jesus did this as he sent his disciples to preach and practice what they had been learning (Luke 10:1-12). It says that Jesus appointed them, which is to say he affirmed their worthiness and call to be the harvesters of God’s kingdom. He sent them out in twos so that they were not entirely alone. He set boundaries on the experiment in what they would use, where they would go, and the minimum level of response they would need to receive to stay in each town. Jesus created a relatively safe way for they to experiment but I’m sure the disciples didn’t feel comfortable in going out!
The point of experiments is to learn something. It is not to be perfect the first, third, or seventy-seventh time. The point is that we, by leaving place of comfort, can be stretched and challenged in new ways. In doing so we learn, through all the successes and failures, to trust God more, to rely on each other for support, and that we are capable of more than we’ve come to expect after years of laying back in our comfort zones.