Christian Living

Familiarity Breeds Complacency

May We Never Become Indifferent toward Our Spiritual Practices and Faith

Consider the adage that familiarity breeds contempt. While I hope that our familiarity with God will never breed contempt toward our Creator and Savior, I do wonder if our familiarity breeds complacency, that is a smug indifference or even apathy toward our faith.

Recall Jesus’s warning to the church in Laodicea. He criticizes them for being lukewarm, that is, for being complacent. His response is to want nothing to do with them, to figuratively spit them out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16).

I wonder how many of Jesus’s followers today have become lukewarm. Have they grown too use to the marvelous wonder of their faith? Does their familiarity with God and his ways produce a lukewarm reaction?

Consider areas where familiarity breeds complacency:

Familiarity with Church

I’ve attended church all my life and have sat through thousands of church services. It’s easy to slide into the familiar—showing up, going through the motions, and leaving—without truly engaging with what’s happening, with others, or with our Lord.

Our familiarity with what takes place at church each Sunday can produce indifference, even boredom.

More specifically are the two major subsets of a typical church service: the worship music and the sermon.

Does the worship music failed to move us? Though we tend to want the songs we know and like, it becomes too easy to mouth the words without contemplating their meaning.

Yet too often when we sing a new song—as the Bible says to (Psalm 149:1, Isaiah 42:10, and more)—people complain.

In like manner, do we tune out the sermons with a I’ve been-there-done-that boredom? Perhaps this is why some preachers resort to yelling. They’re just trying to get people’s attention.

Familiarity with Scripture

When we read of familiar passage in the Bible, it’s easy to dismiss it because we know what it says. Yet Scripture is layered.

If we’re willing to dig into it and contemplate its nuances—as guided by the Holy Spirit—there’s always something new we can pull from it.

Yet doing so requires diligence. Otherwise, familiarity breeds complacency toward the word of God

Familiarity with Communion

A particular area I struggle with is celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Though I strive to recall the wonders of God’s greatest gift to us, the routine of the ritual fights against that.

Most often I fail to fully contemplate the life-changing significance of what Jesus did for me—for us—when he died for our sins.

Some churches celebrate the Eucharist on a weekly basis. Yet even gatherings that do so monthly or quarterly can still fall victim to where familiarity breeds complacency toward Holy Communion.

Instead of giving God my renewed appreciation, I too often end up offering him my apology over my failure to engage in this practice.

Familiarity with Celebration

This thought that familiarity breeds complacency came to mind when I heard a minister chastise his congregation for not better engaging with a holiday celebration.

How many Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter services have we gone to in our lives?

They should be a celebration, but too often they’re not. Jesus came to earth, died, and rose from the dead so that we could be saved. Each is worthy of celebration.

This is certainly something to get excited about. But complacency seems to be the more common response.

Familiarity Breeds Complacency

Your list may be different than mine, and you may have more things to add, but this is a good place to start. Consider your attitude toward attending church services, reading Scripture, partaking Communion, and celebrating God.

How can we reform our practice of each one of these events to make them meaningful and help us grow in our faith? Though we may struggle to do so on our own, with God’s help we can.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Bogged Down Reading the Bible?

10 Essential Bible Reading Tips, from Peter DeHaan

Get the Bible Reading Tip Sheet: “10 Tips to Turn Bible Reading from Drudgery to Delight.”

​Enter your info and receive the free Bible Reading Tip Sheet and be added to Peter’s email list.