Tuesday Re-mix –
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
Change is inevitable. We can fight it, we can rebel against it, we can pretend it doesn’t exist. We can hide from it, we can curse it, we can cry out to God against it. But in God’s church, among God’s people, there will always be change…because this revolution Jesus called “my church” is in fact a living, breathing organism. And where there is life, there is necessarily growth…and where there is growth, there is [gulp!] CHANGE. Mark it down. It is an eternal truth.
Yet despite all of the scripture devoted to this truth and even in the face of thousands of years of evidence of it in the human experience, managing change among God’s people (i.e., in the church) remains one of the toughest leadership challenges around. I have never met a pastor who did not consider the ushering in of change to be one of his most difficult leadership tasks…ever. But if you were to come to the conclusion that God’s people just do not like change, I believe you would be wrong.
One of the coolest things my Dad taught me about the church is that God’s people do not mind change…they just mind being changed. That statement has taken on a variety of meanings for me over the years, but I think how I have come to understand it is this: the only truly effective and God-honoring change in the church is the change born out of the spiritual transformation of God’s people as opposed to change that is imposed upon them. Like the gardner to the flowering plant, the pastor can create a healthy environment for growth and change, he can protect the garden from harmful environments, and he can pour nutrients into the soil and into the plants themselves, but one thing the gardner cannot do no matter how hard he tries is to create or even expedite the blooming process. That, it seems, is up to God-ordained processes working within the plant. Surely I do not need to tell you how foolish a church leader looks when he/she is striving and pressing and bursting veins in the neck trying to force the flower to bloom or trying to speed up the process.
If the church you serve is dealing with issues of change (and everyone is these days), and if your frustration level is growing because it does not seem to be happening quickly enough for you, resist the temptation to expedite or short-cut the process against the will of your people. Rather, love them, nurture them, pray for them, feed them and help them to grow from within, looking more and more like Christ…then wait patiently for the Lord to bring them to bloom. Believe me, it will be much more satisfying to you, loving to them, and honoring to God.
“Cease striving, and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10 (NAS)
Thanks, Dad. Excellent lesson!