If you’ve been through a church conflict, you know the truth of Psalm 133:1. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (CSB)
When doctrinal disputes fracture a congregation, or when personal preferences lead to disunity, or when personality conflicts cause division, Christians naturally long for peace, a renewed sense of unity in the fellowship we have in Christ and the partnership we have in mission.
We crave unity. We want to experience contentment. We want to see the church united by what matters most—what God wants, not what we want. Or better said, we want to want what God wants for our church.
But it’s easy for Christians who have been through a season of conflict or discontentment to pursue peace and satisfaction as the goal. It’s easy for churches to imagine that it’s a sign of faithfulness when everyone is getting along and everyone is satisfied.
This is the mistake that robs many a congregation of missional effectiveness.
Yes, we are right to pursue unity and peace in the church. But we are wrong to assume that the absence of conflict or complaint indicates that things are going in the right direction. The satisfaction of church members may be a sign not of faithfulness, but of widespread complacency.
Imagine this scenario. You’re a pastor in a congregation where there has been division and disunity over the years. Right now, things are better. Attendance is up. The number of complaints has fallen. People regularly encourage the staff and speak highly of the church. Every now and then, someone says: “Don’t change a thing. We love everything!”
Now, the temptation is to say, “Wonderful! Finally, everyone is happy” as if making everyone happy is the goal of your church. But that temptation is deadly. The mission of the church is not to satisfy the preferences of church members, but to spread the gospel of Jesus so that sinners are saved and find their satisfaction in him.
An aging congregation could look for a pastor who will sing their favorite songs, preach their favorite passages, and remain content to bury the parishioners, as one by one they pass into eternity. A younger congregation could look for a pastor who will do the same, only they’re less focused on burials and more focused on births.
But the reality holds true: the satisfied church that isn’t reaching people for Jesus is satisfied in the wrong things.
A church on fire for God will never say, “Don’t change a thing!” if the baptismal waters are rarely stirred, or if the number of young people and children is falling, or if the church is making a smaller and smaller impact on the community.
The satisfied church is not a holy congregation; it may just be a complacent one.
This paradox is important. Churches most satisfied in God will be the most dissatisfied with their own spiritual state. They want to see God’s name magnified throughout their city and around the world. They will be dissatisfied—filled with holy discontent over the current state of their church, and they’ll be yearning to reach more for Christ, to do more for others, to serve more in his name.
We don’t want churches full of people dissatisfied due to their personal preferences going unfulfilled. Neither do we want churches full of people who are satisfied because everything is running smoothly. No, we want people who are satisfied with God but dissatisfied with the state of the world because they live and breathe the mission. They’re driven by the gospel and the mission on behalf of King Jesus and his kingdom.
As one of the pastors at my church, I am praying for more holy discontent. Our goal is not to make things satisfactory for our members, but to encourage and empower more members to be on mission together. God give us more people who are satisfied in him and unsatisfied with themselves! Satisfied in salvation and unsatisfied with the status quo!
O that more of us would resemble the psalmist, who ached for the living God, panted after him and desired him more and more! “Everyone happy” is not the goal, but “everyone happy in Jesus while on mission together, striving toward the upward call in Christ Jesus.”
Beware the satisfied church.