A Beginning IS Change
"Then God said, 'Let there be light,'" and there was change! For the next five days, "God said," and there was change! Did you ever wonder why God waited until the sixth day to create people? Could it be that God knew that as soon as Adam and Eve were around there would be resistance to the changes brought forth from the chaos that existed?
Just imagine what the people might have said if they had been present! "Why do we have to have rocks? They hurt our feet." "Why do banana trees have to be so tall? We can't reach them without climbing." "Who needs mosquitoes and snakes and skunks? We were doing fine without them." "How about a four-day work week?"
Perhaps our preference for the status quo is inherent in the gift of free will, but there is clearly something in all of us that prompts us, when faced with change, to challenge and frequently to resist. Put us in a communal environment such as a congregation, and that tendency is exacerbated. We often join a particular group, such as the church we choose to join, because it feels comfortable and becomes familiar. Change that, and the whole reason for joining is put to question — or so it seems.
In the past few months, many congregations have experienced profound change — the cabinet has appointed a new pastor! Some people are questioning "Why?" They joined because of the pastor — the way she preaches, his wonderful manner when visiting, her vision for the future, his strong ability to teach from the Scriptures, her administrative skill, his absolute commitment to outreach ministries. You get the picture. Or do you? Are members shopping other churches to find the comfortable, familiar environment of the past?
How do congregational leaders prepare for the possibility that people will leave as a result of this "natural" tendency to resist change? Can we be proactive? Leaders must work together to communicate and to remind people that God is the One who creates wonderful gifts from what appears to be chaos.
Excepting only The Creation, the most profound change to the human experience occurred in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He met resistance from every side. Even his own disciples resisted his vision of the kingdom of God, clinging to their traditional Messianic vision. What did Christ do in response to the resistance to change? The answer is simple, though far from simplistic: Communication, Love, Patience, and Personal Example. How can congregational leaders apply this example to change within the congregation?
George Olive is a layman who has served as a conference council director, national trainer, consultant and local pastor.