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On The Journey


Quincy Brown

1/1/2020


Learning to Adapt to Change

New Year’s Eve will mark my first anniversary of attending LA Fitness gym for my first session with a personal trainer. My trainer caught off guard when he asked if I had plans for later that night.

With a puzzled look, I responded in a rather clueless manner, “Now, why would I have plans for later tonight?” After my new trainer gave the “where have you been” stare at me, it finally occurred to me that it was December 31! And if I needed more proof of the day, the booming of fireworks for the remainder of the night all but confirmed that it was New Year's Eve. 

Unlike several of the people in the gym that day, I wasn’t there to work on a New Years Resolution. Instead, I was there because I needed to lower my A1C. After nearly 14 years of being on Immunosuppressant medications to keep my transplanted kidney from rejecting, one of the side effects that I’m struggling with is becoming susceptible to developing Type 2 Diabetes.

I’m pleased to say that my hard work with my trainer Stephen Bostick over the past twelve months has produced positive results: my A1C has lowered, and I’m no longer in the danger zone! This feat was a massive win for me, and I’m still celebrating and continuing to work with Stephen. And since I’m a Methodist, which means, among other things, that I’m often committed to my established methods, I’m grateful for the long process that it took me to adapt my routine and body shape for positive results.
For many of us, adapting means change, and change might as well be a four-letter word because it strikes most of us as something ugly and profane. No one likes to change. We’re hardwired for homeostasis — the state of equilibrium and balance when all is well, and nothing is changing.  As we learned in Biology class, homeostasis, when it relates to maintaining body temperature and blood pressure, are good things. But when homeostasis refers to our outlook and keeps us committed to established methods that are outdated, it becomes the enemy of growth and change. And whether we know it or not, New Year’s and January is all about the beginning, and we begin something new until we end something old. Beginning and Endings are the stuff of change, and change is ultimately about loss: loss of identity, loss of purpose, loss of prestige, and loss of meaning.

If change represents a loss that is especially difficult for people, then it’s no wonder that the resistance to change is so prevalent in our churches. The sobering truth is this: denying the need to and resisting to change and adapt is probably the single biggest reason that our churches are in decline.  Gone are the days when a church could swing open its doors, and people would come.

The truth is painful for many of us to hear, but the church is no longer the center of things for our culture.
 
Churches can’t keep doing things the way they’ve always done them. But that doesn’t mean that the fix is looking for Millennials to fill the pews or for generous donors to help us make up our financial shortfalls. There’s no quick fix to the challenges we are facing. It will take a shift in the way we do church and how we live out our faith in our culture and context.

The truth is painful for many of us to hear, but the church is no longer the center of things for our culture.
 
Churches can’t keep doing things the way they’ve always done them. But that doesn’t mean that the fix is looking for Millennials to fill the pews or for generous donors to help us make up our financial shortfalls. There’s no quick fix to the challenges we are facing. It will take a shift in the way we do church and how we live out our faith in our culture and context.

It will mean rethinking and listening to people outside of the church walls. Instead of continuing to do things the way we’ve always done them, we will have to grieve that our methods no longer produce the results they once did. Attendance patterns have changed, communities surrounding our churches have changed, and our children, grandchildren, and their peers live in a different world than we did. Grieving isn’t easy, and it causes us to act out when we’re caught off guard by fierce emotions. We need to become comfortable on the edge of society and find ways to minister from the margins, and learning from people outside the walls of our congregations who are more at home with our changing environments.
 
And while it’s both exciting and scary stuff, learning from people outside the congregation is to shift into a new season of church life where we're not as tied to our “methods,” leadership lists, old structures, and "church as usual.”

In this new season, each of us must grieve losing our nostalgic thinking of how things used to be. Rather than gripe over hoisting TVs in the sanctuary, text to give apps and kiosks, music styles, or not having enough representation from younger generations in our worship services, we can learn to form relationships by taking a genuine interest in their lives. I never said that it was going to be easy. But, I’m convinced that engagement, both with persons outside and inside the walls of the congregation to listen to their stories of hope, will offer a different narrative that has decline and plateau as its main protagonists. 
 
As it turned out, I had unknowingly resolved on New Year’s Eve last year. My resolution began with learning a new way of living in partnership with my trainer. It wasn’t to gain six-pack abs, or 18-inch biceps, or a bulging chest. Instead, it was getting help from someone outside of my healthy sphere of influence with lowering my A1C. Now that I’ve accomplished this, my 2020 goal is to maintain my numbers and continue my weekly regimen.  What is it your church trying to change by going alone? Worship attendance? Finances? And or Deferred maintenance on your building? In your quest to change, are you willing to lose your “methods” and learn how to adapt your church for others outside the church?  

On the Journey,



 
PS, I'm grateful for a new partnership with Ross Boone AKA Raw Spoon's talent for helping to bring the blog to life. You will hear more about Ross and how he can be available to help your church in the upcoming months. For now, here's a brief view of his work. Go to RawSpoon.com for more of Ross's work.


 


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