Holy Discontent

A couple months ago I was the lucky recipient of a free book from the highly esteemed Ariel Vanderhorst. The condition of the deal was that I had to write a post dealing with a topic in the book and linking back to Ariel's blog. The book I received was "Holy Discontent" by Bill Hybels. The intent of the book is to study the why behind people's motivation to volunteer their time, money and energy in service to others. What makes people "sell out", if you will, for the pursuit of a specific cause. Hybel's believes that people have some sort of a "Holy Discontent" that fuels their passion and often causes them to perform in ways that many would consider strange and yet they would consider wholly necessary to accomplish needed change.

In chapter 4, page 74, Hybels makes a statement that I think is rather profound concerning the promotion of your "Holy Discontent." He says:

Once you find your holy discontent, do whatever you must do to feed it. Again, if it sounds counterintuitive, it's because it is. But as I've often said, the great ongoing danger regarding a person's holy discontent is that its energy will wane. The fuel will dry up. The firestorm will fizzle out. No matter how amped up we are about something that wrecks us, time and repetition take a toll. Another plate of food for a starving orphan, another late night music rehearsal for an artist, another tutoring class for an inner-city child - if we aren't diligent to feed our holy discontent, we will assuredly become "weary in well doing," to borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul.

Determine that you will never insulate yourself from what wrecks you. Instead increase your exposure......

My passion in life is helping churches do two things. Both items are driven from Christ's words about the greatest and second greatest commands. I long to help people rightly worship God and connect people to God. I was thinking about Hybel's words in relationship to what I do in my position as a pastor of a church. I often think about changes that are necessary for a church to be effective. When I isolate myself, however, in the walls of my church I can find myself being convinced to slow down or back off for the sake of someone's comfort. When I allow myself, however, to be exposed to the world outside the church and to be exposed to other churches who are both honoring to God and not honoring to God, I am motivated to not allow my church ever be satisfied where we are at. Comfort is not the issue, obedience and faithfulness are the primary issues.

Just so, thinking about Hybel's words concerning our energy waning, I often find that it can be true that our passions will relax when we find ourselves in a rut. There is great danger in repetition. I know, however, that at times repetition and learned behaviors can be helpful, particularly in the practice of the spiritual disciplines. The inherent danger in repetition, however, is that we become so practiced in the activity that it can be accomplished apart from emotion. When we can accomplish anything apart from emotion, we become dangerously close to losing our effectiveness, if not our dedication to the task. While emotions should not dictate our commitment to a certain cause, it is also nearly impossible to experience dedication apart from emotion.

Consider the words about Jesus found in Matthew 9.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (emphasis mine)

Notice that Christ's passion for the people in these verses seemed to drive His response. I think Hybel's is dead on the money when he reminds us to "increase our exposure" to remind us why we are to be so committed. I often think the reason the church is so lethargic in the area of evangelism relates closely to the fact that we have made much more strident efforts to be "not of the world" that we've forgotten that we must still be "in the world." Maybe we would develop a passion once again from reaching those apart from Christ if we would renew our commitment to knowing those apart from Christ, thus "increasing our exposure" to that which drove us in the first place.