The lectionary texts for the early fall come from Exodus, so we’re sticking with that story for several weeks and making a series out of it: Shift Happens: Faith at the Speed of Change. Our church’s transformation team thought it would be a good opportunity to introduce some of the stuff that they’ve been learning in their training. The goal is also pastoral: life is always changing. Some changes are positive, some are negative; some are sought after, some are foisted upon us. All can be stressful. All can knock us off balance.
And when it comes to change, Exodus has got it all: radical change (leave Egypt tonight!), gradual change (now wander for forty years), anxiety and resistance (there’s no food! and the food’s no good!), a desire to go back to the familiar (we were better off as slaves), and the need for mature leaders and companions in the midst of it all (Moses… well, he does the best he can. And Aaron kinda screws the pooch with that golden calf thing).
One of the members of our team says that our greatest challenge as a congregation is our tendency to be complacent. The church was blessed with a long-time pastor before I arrived—almost 30 years. That relationship brings with it incredible gifts. And a challenge: it’s really easy to get nice and comfortable. Relationships are vital in ministry, but the cultural landscape is changing too fast for that kind of cozy comfort. Complacency is a luxury we can’t afford if we want to be faithful to the gospel. Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff (and current Secretary of the VA) Eric Shinseki has said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevancy even less.” The Christian faith is headed to that point. (Others might say: look behind you.)
So this week it’s the story of the first passover. When I got together with a group of folks at Tiny Church to study the scripture and plan the series, they were befuddled by the instructions God gives here: Hey, I’m going to free you tonight, but it’s going to involve the slaughter of a whole lot of Egyptian people. Now, here’s a recipe for roast lamb. Best not to improvise on it.
What is God up to here? I’ve got a few ideas that I’m kicking around for Sunday.
Should be a fun series. Of course when you start working on something, you start seeing related stuff all over the place. This post from Seth Godin was on point:
When confronted with a new idea, do you:
- Consider the cost of switching before you consider the benefits?
- Highlight the pain to a few instead of the benefits for the many?
- Exaggerate how good things are now in order to reduce your fear of change?
- Undercut the credibility, authority or experience of people behind the change?
- Grab onto the rare thing that could go wrong instead of amplifying the likely thing that will go right?
- Focus on short-term costs instead of long-term benefits, because the short-term is more vivid for you?
- Fight to retain benefits and status earned only through tenure and longevity?
- Embrace an instinct to accept consistent ongoing costs instead of swallowing a one-time expense?
- Slow implementation and decision making down instead of speeding it up?
- Embrace sunk costs?
- Imagine that your competition is going to be as afraid of change as you are? Even the competition that hasn’t entered the market yet and has nothing to lose…
- Emphasize emergency preparation at the expense of a chronic and degenerative condition?
- Compare the best of what you have now with the possible worst of what a change might bring?
Calling it out when you see it might give your team the strength to make a leap.
And away we go.
Video: How to Move a 100 Year Old Church. I don’t love the aesthetic or the message of the rock/choir piece midway through, but there is something poignant about the people leading the way.