Sjogren’s seventh path on the way to becoming a “perfectly imperfect church” appears very rarely in church growth books. He says the church needs to be Safe. “Feeling ‘safe’ is the assurance that nothing is going to be forced upon a person at any time against his or her will or outside her comfort level.” As church leaders we need to work to maintain the safety of our people on many levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual among the most basic. Our Annual Conference is in the process of implementing (and causing local churches to implement) a Safe Sanctuary policy to protect children. Developing these policies is difficult – especially for small, struggling churches. These small churches that are used to fighting for perhaps one person to teach each Sunday school class now need twice as many. We’re looking at Summer camp now, and trying to figure out how to get twice as many adults to go as usual – when the old number was exceptionally difficult.
We live in a dangerous world – if we consider nothing more than the fragility of children, hard objects, and Newton’s laws of motion. As long as moral constraints were allowed in the broader culture, there seemed to be some damper on local human evil. Now with the divorce between morality and legality – leaving the latter as the only functioning restraint – it seems society is even more dangerous – for children.
So I understand the need for safety – for our children and also for adults. But I confess that as I read the Bible I find a God who isn’t terribly safe. Always challenging and provoking, God continually gets people in over their heads in situations they can’t handle. Read the end of Hebrews 11 sometime and see what God got those folks into. Taking Sjogren’s point, however, I have no problem thinking that as we church leaders make our churches as safe as possible so there is plenty of room for God to make his blessed trouble for people (including us!).