Spiritual Paralysis - The Fear of the Unknown Part 1

My mentor, Gordon Penfold, wrote the following article around the time he was leading his church toward the building of a new church facility (over $1.7m accomplished debt free) . Though ten years have past since its original writing it has incredible relevance today. -Pastor Chris


"Many people fear change, for change creates unknowns.  But change is an inevitability in life.  We’re born, we live, we grow, we age, we die.  Change is constant!  As someone once said, “The only thing certain about life is change!”  Change makes many of us uncomfortable. I’ve observed in my own life that it is not the change itself I fear, but the unknowns that accompany change.  The fear of the unknown prevents us from launching into new ventures—ventures that the Lord may be leading us to do!  This same fear paralyzes churches.  We are afraid to start a new ministry because someone might be critical of us.  We don’t share the Gospel with a neighbor because they might think ill of us.  We are afraid, not of failure, but the unknown.  Fear grips our hearts and prevents us from accomplishing great things in life!  We like security!

For most, this door poses a taboo, a warning: Do not enter.  For others, a challenge:  What’s behind the door?  Our lives are filled with many doors.  The adventuresome seek to find out what’s behind a door. They will knock!  For the non-adventuresome, the door is a foreboding threat and remains closed and unexplored.  

I am on the final step in completing my Thesis Project for my D.Min.  One item that surfaced in the research was the remarkable difference between pastors who knock on new doors and those who don’t. One group of pastors regularly lead the church they pastor through new doors toward positive change and growth. In contrast, the second group of pastors is afraid to enter the doors of opportunity presented to them.  The churches of the first group thrive and grow while those in the second remain plateaued or continue their decline toward death.
Here’s an example of spiritual paralysis.  Some years ago, an energetic young pastor came to pastor a church that was in decline.  He started a dynamic youth outreach to the community.  The other churches reacted negatively toward this new endeavor.  However, those churches were doing nothing themselves to reach the young people!  What happened?  The church pulled back and dropped the outreach.  Tragic?  Yes!  Common?  All too common!  

In many churches, pastors and leaders alike are afraid to try anything new or different for fear of making waves.  Consequently, the churches are in a long deep, furrow, also known as a rut!
The early church faced the same type of complacency.  The Lord Jesus commanded the early church to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19).  However, the church was content to reach Jewish people with the Gospel.  To move out of this realm was neither popular nor comfortable.  The church, for the most part, was content to stay in Jerusalem.  God used Saul of Tarsus’ persecution to move the Jerusalem church out of its comfort zone and into the world.  Then “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4), including hated Samaria and beyond!" -Dr. Gordon Penfold, used by permission

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