“That’s the way we’ve always done it…”
Sometimes I wonder if Jesus ever heard that phrase? Did any of the disciples ever utter it? I mean, what he was doing was changing things up — big time. There had to be some resistance from within the ranks. It couldn’t have gone all nice and smooth right? Maybe if I search back into 1 Hesitations I can read the untold story. (BTW, there is no 1 Hesitations, although it would be fun to write).
Change is a scary thing for most humans. We’d all rather not do it. Change requires going outside of the routine and our comfort zone. Change requires us to go to areas that we aren’t confident about. Change requires us to acknowledge that we aren’t in control. How scary!
But change can lead to some great things. It requires us to adapt, to try, to failure, to keep moving, to risk, to think, to create. It doesn’t always work out great, but you learn a ton along the way. Oh, and change is a long-term game. It’s not a sprint because for the most part, you’re dealing with mindsets and beliefs, not just the material things that are being changed. Mindsets and beliefs take time to change.
This is true in church as well. People in churches spend an awful lot of energy and effort fighting over some trivial stuff — things like new carpeting, or which pens are going to be bought. Sometimes it’s easier to fight over these things because it keeps a church from dealing with real problems.
But change is inevitable — well at least for those people and organizations that are going to survive and yes, even thrive.
Or as Carey Nieuwhof says :
Wise church leaders change their approach to not just preserve the mission of the church, but to advance it.
He wrote an article on what the death of retail can teach churches. Very insightful stuff.
Here’s the short list:
- Inconvenience has to be overcome by reward
- Online options are actually real options
- Your people are you search engine
- The importance of user reviews
- The middle is disappearing
I suggest you read the article for more details on each of these points.
But here’s the thing, they all point to the need for change. Not for changes sake, but rather to take things further, to the next step.
Here’s a personal example.
I’ve been doing long distance running for about 13 years now and probably been running shorter distances a few years beyond that. When I first started, I ran like far differently than I do now. I’ve had to change my running style over time. Part of that came as a result of trying to improve my results. Part of that came as a result of aging. Part of that had to do with what works for my body.
Couldn’t the same be said of our churches? When a church starts off, it does things in a certain way. As the years go on, changes come about — not to screw people over, but rather, because as a church ages, how it does things should adapt to that. As times by, a church learns new things and should adapt them in — and often these new things will require some changes. And lastly, changes will come about as a church gets comfortable and accepting with who it is.
The reality is that the way we’ve always done it is doesn’t really mean what it is often used for — resisting change. The reality is that the way we’ve always done it means that we are always changing and adapting. We’re doing this because people are involved. People make anything alive and vibrant. No church should look, act, think, and worship the exact same way they did in the past. Not because the past was bad, but because as people come and go into and out of church, the church itself changes. As a church moves along, God has new materials and people in which to utilize in moving the mission forward.