Merriam-Webster defines complacent as: marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. Synonyms muddy the definition though with words such as: happy, pleased, or easy-going.
So, is being complacent a problem? Obviously, if the definition of complacent includes the idea of being unaware of dangers or deficiencies then it is a huge problem. However, complacency is a huge problem that often masquerades behind the appearance that everything is alright. Complacency is hard to notice unless you are careful and watchful of its side effects.
Complacency is not a word you want someone to use when they describe you. Certainly, as a Christian, you do not want this word used of you. Also, this is not a word you want used to describe your local church. Complacency is a silent killer.
Complacency can take many forms. In an individual, it can look like pride in one’s personal achievements. Specifically, in the case of the Christian, it can look like satisfaction with their own personal holiness. A Christian who believes they have “arrived” at the level God wants them to be at this side of Glory is dangerous. It’s a lie told by Satan to keep you from progressing in your faith. It’s a deception brought forth by the flesh that whispers in your ear saying, “You deserve a rest.” It’s the voice of the world saying you’re OK to just be yourself.
Complacency is not progress. Complacency will not produce peaceful rest. Complacency is settling to be yourself when God calls you to be like Him. Complacency is a problem for both the individual believer and the corporate local body of Christ.
Complacency can take the form of patience or contentment, although it is not biblical patience or contentment. For example, a believer or local church might say this: “Oh, we are just waiting for the Lord’s direction during this time.” Yet, the person, or group, is content to stay rooted in old ways, habits, traditions, or behavior because it is what they are accustomed to. God may be calling them to change their ways, yet they assume that since they are comfortable it must be God’s will for them to stay the same.
Complacency, on the flip side, can also take the form of busyness. For example, a church might have many activities, programs, services, and the like going on during the week. But, if you were to examine the usefullness or effectiveness of such activities you might find them to be lacking. Oh yes, you might find those activities, programs, services, and so forth to have many attendees. But, examine how effective these things are for the spiritual benefit of the body of Christ and you might find that there are “butts in the seats” but no “change in the heart.”
Complacency can take the form of a church, who has done “church” a certain way for many years, that is suddenly given the opportunity to do “church” differently for their spiritual benefit, but they desire things to stay the same or go back to the way things used to be. They cling to anything that will provide them comfort and push aside anything that has the potential to edify.
There are many other examples of complacency. I am sure you can think of areas in your own life where you’ve grown complacent. I know I can! So, I want to leave you with the words of Jesus to the Church in Laodicea in the book of Revelation:
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” –Revelation 3:14–22 (ESV)