Because you say, “I am rich and prosperous and I have need of nothing,” and have not known that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked. Rev 3:17.
What is wrong with Laodicea? In a human sense, there is nothing wrong with Laodicea. She has achieved what all human beings desire; comfort, ease, the alleviation of all needs. But Laodicea is a church, and Jesus Christ has called the church to a life of self-sacrificial service. The church is to leave its comfort zone and take radical risks to share the gospel with those in need. Our comfort zone, however, can be deceptively hidden even from ourselves.
Bruce Olson tells of his efforts to take the gospel to the Motilón people in a remote part of South America. He learned to speak the language, and the people came to accept his presence. Eventually his closest Motilón friend became a Christian, but the work proceeded slowly.
One Motilón custom included marathon singing sessions in which, suspended in hammocks high above the ground, they sang out the news that each of them had heard and experienced in days previous. During one of these festivals, Olson listened as his friend, the first Motilón Christian, sang out the story of Jesus, and the story of his personal conversion. For fourteen hours, while a formerly hostile neighboring chief repeated it word for word, note for note, the gospel rang out through the jungle night.
Although a positive development, the missionary himself was uncomfortable with what happened. “It seemed so heathen,” he wrote. “The music, chanted in a strange minor key, sounded like witch music. It seemed to degrade the gospel. Yet when I looked at the people around me and up at the chief, swinging in his hammock, I could see they were listening as though their lives depended upon it. Bobby was giving them spiritual truth through the song.”
The music sounded like witch music. It was Motilón music. Their music, as well as their language, had previously served false gods. Yet the missionary would not hesitate to translate the Bible into the Motilón language in spite of its pagan connotations. The gospel had to come to the Motilón people in a language they could understand.
The same was true of their music. How could God sing to the Motilón except in a musical language that communicated to them? Bach chorales and early American folk hymns would not do the job. The missionary’s Laodicean comfort zone had become an obstacle to the gospel. When it came to spiritual things he thought his way was the only right way, his favorite Christian music the only appropriate music for communicating the gospel. Unable to move past his comfort zone, God bypassed him and sang to the Motilón in their own way.1