Note: Please don’t read into this post that people are resisting change at EBC. In fact, they have embraced change, and seen God glorified by that change for the past year. This post is just my effort to help others release the strangle-hold that “SAME” has on their church.
If you call a new pastor, you are calling change. I’m not saying things “might change.” I’m not saying “things could change.” I’m saying, he IS change. The new guy IS change.
He doesn’t know your context. He doesn’t know “how it used to be,” “how it’s always been,” or what the “good ol’ days” were like. He has no reference point of past ministry style or philosophy (in most cases.)
To make matters worse, you don’t know his context (in most cases.) You probably weren’t a part of his former ministry. You didn’t grow up where he did, train where he did, experience what he experienced. Your two worlds are colliding in a wonderful, God ordained, beautifully disastrous way! God’s providence is ordaining change for which only God can be blamed!
You speak DIFFERENT languages. Same terms, very DIFFERENT meanings—simply because of context. You may have experienced bad leadership. He may have experienced good leadership (or vice versa.) “Business meeting” means one thing to you and another to him. “Outreach” means one thing to him and another to you. Deacon board, discipleship, special offering, church service, missions trip, youth ministry, follow up, Sunday school—all of these terms and a thousand others have two different contexts—yours and his. But you don’t realize this—and neither does he.
Until he starts to lead. When the new guy starts to lead—he IS change. His context is not yours, therefore, whatever he does represents something DIFFERENT than you are used to. Everything will be DIFFERENT. Expect it. Anticipate it. Embrace it.
Be careful though—your reflex is probably to resist it. Your reflex is probably to question, doubt, be cynical, or suspicious. Natural? Yes. But then again, Christians are made of new nature—no longer “natural man.” If the new guy hasn’t hurt you, lied to you, left you, or laden you with unbiblical burdens, then don’t take the natural response. Don’t mantle him with the hurts and disappointments of your last five pastors. Give him a fair shake. A clean slate. (What if he treated you like his last five grumpy church members? Now that wouldn’t be fair, would it?)
If you are calling a DIFFERENT pastor, then DIFFERENT is exactly what God is ordaining in your life and church. Maybe SAME wasn’t working well. It was comfortable. It was familiar. But let’s face it—if you’re calling a new pastor, SAME was probably broken a long time ago, and you didn’t even realize it. You thought SAME was working just fine—it’s just that lost culture is harder and harder and no longer wants truth. That’s why nobody is getting saved. Nobody is being discipled. Nobody is coming into the body. SAME works, but culture rejects it. That’s a convenient excuse, but also lame. Let’s face it—SAME is dysfunctional. SAME was broken. You just got used to it. You settled into SAME and didn’t think twice about it. SAME was just what church life is. But anybody from outside of your four walls of SAME could see that SAME was not working. SAME was not leading the church to health. SAME was just a slow comfortable crawl toward death.
DIFFERENT is uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar. DIFFERENT is something you haven’t seen or experienced before, so your reflex is to resist it. But where’s your sense of ADVENTURE!? Think VACATION! Wasn’t it fun to occasionally see some place DIFFERENT? Didn’t you ever find a new place that you liked BETTER than the old one? That requires leaving the old place long enough to adventure some place NEW!
What if DIFFERENT can take you to a place in local church life where you’ve never been—a stronger, healthier, more joyful, more enjoyable place? What if DIFFERENT is actually biblical? What if DIFFERENT realigns you with God’s mission and with His truth? What if DIFFERENT is obedience and SAME is disobedience? What if DIFFERENT means life and SAME means death—for others and for your church? What if DIFFERENT is the road back to New Testament Church health and life?
If you’re opposed to change, you’re in deep trouble. Because things don’t stay the same. They either improve with intentionality, or they deteriorate with neglect. NOTHING stays the same. SAME was an illusion. Things weren’t staying the SAME, even though you thought they were. If they weren’t getting BETTER, things were getting WORSE. SAME wasn’t. And SAME doesn’t bring BETTER. Same never brings BETTER. Trying to keep things the SAME is a failing mission. It’s a journey into guaranteed death. SAME kills things. Don’t buy the illusion of SAME.
We all love familiar. We all love what we’re used to. We often love SAME better than we love GOSPEL, JESUS, MISSION, NEW LIFE. We often love SAME more than we love PEOPLE. We love SAME because we love SELF. We love “how we know it,” “how we want it,” “how we feel comfortable.” SAME keeps us in-focused, self-focused, internal, narcissistic. SAME keeps us IN THE BOAT and OFF THE WAVES. SAME keeps us OUT of the fiery furnace, OUT of the Ark, and OFF of the CROSS, and IN the TOMB!
SAME also keeps us from experiencing JESUS in the storm, JESUS in the furnace, JESUS in the ARK, and JESUS through an opened tomb! SAME keeps us from taking risk, stepping out, launching out. It keeps us holding onto comfort and stability. SAME keeps us on a dying track instead of a reviving one. SAME makes us disturbingly contented rather than desperately discontented. SAME is generally dangerous and costly.
SAME slips backward without realizing it. SAME thinks it’s moving forward. But it’s not. Forward is DIFFERENT. If I’m THERE, then I’m not WHERE I WAS—that’s DIFFERENT. SAME cannot move forward. If it does, it’s not SAME.
The new guy IS change. He IS DIFFERENT. (I don’t mean his personality… though for EBC, that was certainly the case as well.) I mean his very presence in your church life means things will take on a DIFFERENT feel, a DIFFERENT persona, a DIFFERENT energy. He is CHANGE—and there’s NO WAY HUMANLY POSSIBLE that he could be anything else.
When I got cancer, SAME would have killed me. SAME would have kept me living an over-extended, stressed, and unhealthy life. SAME would have kept me from visiting a doctor, having tests, or getting treatment. SAME was familiar and easy. SAME was what I knew as life. But SAME was actually death.
To stay alive? To continue experiencing life, SAME was not an option. SAME was nothing but a road to death. Continued life would be found in DIFFERENT. Thus, doctor visits, scans, tests, more tests, and then treatments—lots of treatments… these things were DIFFERENT. I had never had a CT scan or PET scan. I had never had a bone marrow biopsy. I have never seen an oncologist. These were new terms, new experiences, new faces—and rather uncomfortable. These were DIFFERENT. But these also put me on a road to LIFE.
SAME was killing me. DIFFERENT was saving me. Thank you Lord for DIFFERENT! DIFFERENT or DEATH. Those were my choices.
And so it is with many churches today. DIFFERENT or DEATH. Things aren’t staying the same. Don’t fool yourself. If things aren’t DIFFERENT in a healthy, good, biblical way—then DEATH is at the end of the road of SAME.
God’s Word brings DIFFERENT. Spiritual growth brings DIFFERENT. Life changes—every day, in thousands of ways. Your life is DIFFERENT than it was last year, or five years ago. DIFFERENT is ordained by GOD. Though we long for SAME, God leads us continually forward to DIFFERENT.
So, don’t be fooled by SAME. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t be so afraid of God-led, healthy, biblical CHANGE. DIFFERENT is good if it’s biblical.
Not long ago, God totally and completely ordained the DIFFERENT in my life. But DIFFERENT has led to LIFE—life in a church, life in new believers, life in discouraged believers. DIFFERENT has proven to be GOOD and GOD-DRIVEN in every way.
And for sure—DIFFERENT is FAR BETTER than DEATH.