Change, change change; seems like every time you turn around something changes. Monday night I was picking up a few things in Wegmans and as usual mosied over to find some chocolate. Oh no! it was not there! It’s a crime. They changed the location of the chocolate. This store is so big and it’s hard enough to find things; we barely get to know it and then they go and change it….blah..blah…blah. Fortunately, I found a young burly stock clerk who knew right where to lead me–I wonder why? He left me there still mumbling about the audacity of the store to change the sacrosanct location of one its most crucial items.
But as I thought about it and looked around some more, I discovered that the new chocolate spot was actually much more convenient for red-blooded American males like me. It was on a direct route from the cookie aisle to the ice cream freezer. I mean, how much more convenient can you get! These guys are getting wiser all the time! Well, anyway, I picked up some mouth-watering goodness to keep us supplied in essential comfort foods.
I was reflecting on this humorous little sortie and how it relates to change in the church. People sometimes complain about that too. Really now? Why was I so upset at first that some anonymous pseudo-enemy called “they” would personally inconvenience me by moving my favorite snack?
1. I didn’t know about it. The change blindsided me.
2. I didn’t suggest it or have a chance to register my opinion about it.
3. I was afraid it would make my life harder.
4. There was no counter to my natural resistance to change.
Even though I quickly realized that the change was actually helpful to me, my initial reaction was negative. There are definitely lessons to be learned here.
Change is essential. A prosperous chain like Wegmans is constantly changing to meet the demands of the market and improve their profitability. And while we customers groan about adjusting to the changes, we like the updated results. On the other hand, when we go into, say a neighborhood hardware store that hasn’t moved anything in ten years, we sense that this place is on the way out and we wonder how long before the for-sale sign goes up.
Churches need to learn from this contrast. While our message doesn’t change, people who visit sense that if things haven’t changed in the look and feel of our operation in 20 years, they wonder if it is alive and well. But, on the other hand, if even the most well-conceived change is not managed so that the four things I listed are cared for, it will create too much confusion and ill will, even when the change is clearly for the better.