by Skye Jethani
My six year old daughter is the most competitive personality in our home. While the other kindergarteners on her t-ball team are picking dandelions in the outfield, Lucy remains vigilant and “baseball ready” to make the play of the game. She recently came home from a summer backyard Bible camp disappointed. “The games were too easy,” she insisted. “They need to make it harder to win.”
Lucy’s desire to be challenged reveals a fact often neglected in our culture–we only grow when we are uncomfortable, and too much comfort is not only be harmful but can be downright dangerous. For example, a recent FAA study found that pilots are losing critical flying skills because they are under-challenged by state-of-the art planes that virtually fly themselves. Ironically, the push for safety through computer flying is leading to more accidents as pilots “abdicate too much responsibility to automated systems.”
I wonder if the same issue is present in the church? With the best of intentions, we have tried to make church gatherings a comfortable environment for both believers and seekers to learn about God. From the cushioned theater seats with built-in cup holders, to the spoon fed, 3-point sermon with
fill-in-the-blank pre-written notes–the only challenge most of us face on Sunday morning is actually getting our families to church. Once through the door, however, we can relax and switch on the auto pilot.
If our goal is to “teach people to obey” all that Jesus commanded, then we may want to rethink our commitment to comfort on Sundays. Recent brain research has shown that when a person is comfortable the more analytical functions of the brain necessary for learning remain disengaged. Psychologists refer to the brain as having a “system one” and a “system two.” System one is the more intuitive functioning that is active when relaxed, like when vegetating in front of a television or listening to a simple, clear sermon in a comfortable seat on Sunday morning.
System two is the analytical functioning of the brain that is required to rethink assumptions, challenge ideas, and construct new behaviors and beliefs. System two must be active to learn. Research shows that the brain shifts gears from system one to system two when it is forced to work; when it is challenged and uncomfortable…
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