Few phrases make a pastor cringe and fight the urge to cup their hands over their ears in a childish I-can't-hear-you motion. Some of these include:
"I'm not being fed here."
"Where is MY tithe being used?"
"We've never done it that way before."
"How far is 'too far'?"
"Was that you at the pub Friday night?"
One statement which has not particularly made me cringe but has had me really searching and thinking lately is the idea of "being challenged".
We like to say there are churches we don't go to because we aren't challenged.
We go to churches because we are challenged.
We want to listen to podcasts from speakers who challenge us and avoid books by authors who don't challenge us.
We say that we want to be challenged, but that is not true.
We say we want to go to places and people who can challenge us, but we lie.
Granted, we lie because we have re-defined (falsely) what "challenge" actually means. When we say want to be challenged, we mean we want someone to blow our minds. We want someone to communicate something in a way we have never thought about it before. We want to think of things more loftily than we had before.
We want to read books that really make us think, and in so doing, make us learn a lot.
We want these things, and we call it challenge, but we have misunderstood and forgotten the primary element to challenge.
Challenge is a call to engage and change.
We do not want to be challenged. We want to learn more, maybe. We want to know more information, perhaps. We want to answer more questions correctly than someone else, probably.
But very few really want to be challenged, because being challenged means being called to engage and change. Very few of us want to change anything as most of us are too comfortable to engage.
Challenge has to do with whether or not you want to engage something enough to enact change in the way you live, act, or do. Challenge has to do with whether or not what you are reading, hearing, studying, or interacting with engages you to act.
Will my life be different? Will I live differently or am I just waiting for you to blow my mind?
Do I really want to be challenged, or do I really want to know more information than you?
I think of books we commonly call 'challenging' by guys like C.S. Lewis, NT Wright, Bonhoeffer, and I wonder if any of them, as brilliant as they may be, actually engaged me enough to change, act, and live differently.
I think of books by people like Shane Claiborne, SD Gordon, and Francis Chan; books I could read in a day or two but I was engaged to see choices I needed to make to really be more like Jesus.
I think of podcasts I've listened to that I once thought were great challenging sermons, but I cannot remember many that really rocked my life in a way which made me say, "I need to change some things."
The most challenging speakers, writers, and pastors are not necessarily the most profound.
This is because it is not their role to be challenging. It is not up to THEM for YOU to be challenged.
Being challenged is up to YOU! When presented with something, no matter how simple the presentation, its up to YOU to determine whether you will engage and change.
READING: "The Search for God and Guinness" by Stephen Mansfield
LISTENING TO: "No One's First and You're Next" by Modest Mouse