Question: "In what ways should Christians be prepared to step outside their comfort zone?"
Answer: Christ asks His followers to die to themselves, to take up their crosses and follow after Him (Matthew 16:24). Taking up a cross and dying to self are not “comfortable” actions, and Christians should always be willing to step outside their comfort zone into any situation God may place them.
In a certain sense, the very act of becoming a Christian can put one in unfamiliar territory. Christ calls His followers to stop seeking earthly riches (Matthew 6:19), to not worry about the future (Luke 12:22), and to live sacrificially to seek the good of others (Matthew 22:39), all of which run contrary to the values of the world. These teachings call Christians to live a lifestyle radically different from what they were accustomed to before their conversion.
Placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ for salvation requires a big step outside our comfort zone. We are naturally bent away from God in our very nature (Romans 3:10–18), and our natural inclination is to rely on ourselves in some way to be saved: we think we can just be good people or that our wealth proves God’s favor or that by performing certain actions we can “cancel out” our sins. But this is insufficient. To surrender ourselves completely to God, to place our faith exclusively in Jesus Christ to save us, requires us to deny our instinct to save ourselves (Ephesians 2:8). In this sense, all Christians step outside their comfort zones simply by becoming Christians.
But what about our day-to-day lives? Having given ourselves over to Christ, how should we be stepping outside our comfort zones? It may mean associating with people we previously saw as uncomfortably different or even threatening—helping the homeless at a soup kitchen or taking part in a prison ministry. It may mean being seen in places or with people that society looks down on—working at a halfway house or discussing Christ in a seedy bar with alcoholics. It may mean moving to a foreign country or simply breaching the subject of salvation with a group of irreligious friends. The point is we should not cease serving Christ merely because of our discomfort. We should be willing to place ourselves in new situations, even uncomfortable ones, for the sake of seeing the Kingdom advance.
The apostles sacrificed everything in order to serve God (Matthew 19:27), and they willingly went into situations where they could be arrested, threatened, and possibly killed (Acts 4:1–3; 7:54–60; 21:13). Undoubtedly, they put themselves well outside their normal routine and did things far beyond their comfort zones. As Christians, we, too, should be willing to go into radically uncomfortable circumstances if that’s what is required to serve God the way He desires.
This doesn’t mean that every action we take as Christians should make us uncomfortable. What it does mean is that we are called to serve God regardless of our comfort level, and we should never shrink from a chance to serve God merely because it is “outside” our wonted routine.
We should consider how we can best serve God through our talents, even if the best way to serve Him is in a new or daunting situation. A person with the gift of teaching should not seek to only teach those she is comfortable with, neglecting more “undesirable” students. A person with the gift of evangelism should not avoid speaking to prison inmates simply because he is uncomfortable in that environment. If we can best serve God in a certain way, we must trust that God will see to it that things work out for our good and for His plan (Romans 8:28).
All Christians, then, should be willing to step outside of their comfort zones, though that might mean a variety of things from person to person. Whether we are leaving the country to work as a missionary in an underdeveloped country or simply stirring up the courage to talk to our fellow office-workers about Christ, we can have confidence that God will neither leave us nor forsake us. Even when we are in a new and uncomfortable situation, His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).