Impatience and laziness. These are two cardinal sins, said Franz Kafka, from which all the others spring. Both extremes—acting too hastily or failing to act at all—cause trouble in the Church.

In church life there is much more likelihood of laziness than impatience, however. Churches are undergoing a great deal of sophisticated analysis these days, and a lot of complex problems that impede progress are being discovered. But plain old laziness persists whether we want to admit it or not, and whether we call it by that name or use some more contemporary-sounding term. Affluent circumstances, increasing automation, and the trend toward more government guarantees in a wide range of human activities are helping to stifle initiative. So is the tendency to enlarge full-time staff, especially in large churches.

There is a lazy streak in most of us, and some allowance has to be made for it in church procedures. But perhaps we are being too accommodating. Perhaps Christian leaders should contend more forcefully with laziness.

One reason why laziness is hard to combat is that it is sometimes hard to identify. It is not necessarily characterized by inactivity. Lazy people can be very active; they may keep busy doing things that do not count for much because they want to avoid more demanding tasks.

Intellectual laziness is the worse sort for the Christian believer. The whole Church should echo the slogan of the United Negro College Fund, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Few churches really encourage hard study. Some, regrettably, are growing because they advocate spiritual short-cuts. Among these are some congregations that are theologically liberal as well as some that are decidedly evangelical.

Rank-and-file evangelicals today are ...

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