Sanitized, tethered and helmeted?

This spring our family had the opportunity to visit Lynn Canyon in British Columbia. It's a fretful wonder. A swinging bridge hangs across the chasm providing a view that can turn your legs to Jell-O. Perhaps it's only short blokes like me who feel jittery peering over the edge of such an abyss. We also had our four children along and, I tell you, to be vertically challenged and clamouring to keep a rambunctious five-year-old from plunging into a front page headline is heart-pounding stuff.

Safety and security are important at Lynn Canyon, but should it be an equally high value for the Church?
Missiologist David Bosch says something unsettling: "For many centuries the church has suffered very little and has been led to believe that it is a success."

Is he right? Have we cherished, applauded and even institutionalized our relative ease, peace, safety and security within the Canadian landscape at the expense of our true identity, our true purpose and distinct witness? Have we surrendered our true citizenship?

At times we do seem to be an eternally charged and destined people, convinced that the ease and security of the present is what matters most. Along with our culture, we've sanitized, tethered and helmeted ourselves at such a price that one begins to wonder if the real cost is our prophetic discipleship and the joy of obedient adventure.

He who had no place to lay His head and said we'd be blessed to be despised for His name's sake might be quite uncomfortable in our plush pews as we worship according to our preferences. Is the expression of the local Church in Canada a window into heaven?

I think of this every week as I go about my peculiar religious vocation so oft beset by the inertia of people-pleasing. An unnerving question keeps pounding in the background of my day like that annoying drip from the faucet I should be fixing: is this what Jesus meant when He said He'd build a church that the gates of Hades could not overcome? Am I alone, or have we accepted and even blindly endorsed a Christian existence that essentially runs counter to our message and even our Lord's person, example and teaching?

Let's face it: if we'd really live the Sermon on the Mount or cry and strive for justice and righteousness both within the Church and culture like the Old Testament prophets, we'd be marked men and women. On the other hand, we might leave a very different mark.

It's not that we don't like the beautiful wilds of following Jesus; we just like them manageable and safe—kind of like going to an Imax film where you can almost live the adventure with a box of popcorn without having to, well, live it.

But the landscape is changing. Our safe and secure segregated spirituality is being tested. We are being asked which we cherish most: safety and security or the counter-cultural witness of a risen Lord, a resurrected life, an uncommon love and a wild new Kingdom. Our understanding of success will need to be redefined and brought in line, Lord willing, with those historical moments when the Church teetered on the brink, looked to be facing the impossible, discovered herself crossing a proverbial canyon and found herself shining most brightly.

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About the author

Special to ChristianWeek

Phil Wagler is lead pastor of Gracepoint Community Church in Surrey, BC.