Friday, March 8, 2013

Refusing to settle

Despite evidence that change is needed, I've often wondered why groups or organizations continue status quo, ineffective, better-than-nothing-but-not-quite-who-we-said-we-wanted-to-be practices. I think I've finally figured out why.  It should have been obvious from what I have experienced in my own life.  I know first hand that change is tough, that giving things up I've grown accustomed to can be painful no matter how much I know I need to move on.  I guess I just assumed that instead of groups of people having to struggle harder to change, they would have access to greater power to move in new directions.  That is not necessarily true.

What I'm really talking about here is the challenge of being intentional.  I'm talking about the challenge of critiquing potentially empty, tired, ineffective, even harmful ways of being church together.  I'm talking about the challenge of consistently asking questions about why, how, when and with what resources we should express the gospel in a way that is true to the life and message of Jesus.  I'm talking about the challenge of constantly trying to creatively form and shape a faith community around its shared vision and mission.

It's just a not-so-small matter that can effect everything we do, from the structures we create to the message we proclaim.  The place and way we worship, how we structure ourselves, spend our resources, talk about God, involve our children, etc., etc.  All of these things matter, and all of them require time and thought.  Maybe that's why being intentional can be such demanding, exhausting work.

I've begun to realize just how deeply ingrained our way of doing church is.  Church as a place to go, a service to attend, a business to run, a club to join or church as a predominantly consumer-driven/feel-good/don't rock the boat mentality can be pretty stubborn mindsets to unhinge.  Breaking free can be a long, tiring and sometimes painful journey.  Just when you think things are starting to move in new directions, you confront another way that we are stuck.

The struggle to be intentional about breaking free from old, ineffective patterns effects all of us at times.  Whether you are the pastor of a 200 year-old church, a church planter or a professional trying to change the culture in your work place, you feel it.  At times it is overwhelming  and the task of moving in a new direction can seem impossible.  It's then that we have a decision to make.  We can choose to give up and to give in to the comfortable and complacent, or we can do what needs to be done to re-energize and engage ourselves for the journey forward.  This may mean stepping away for a bit, seeking out a friend or colleague, resting, or re-evaluating.  It may mean spending time with someone who reminds us of why this work is so desperately needed.

Whatever it is, I pray that you and I will have the courage to keep believing that what we are doing is making a difference.  I pray that we will refuse to settle, but that we will also find ways to dream and work that enable us to see when we need to step away for a bit and catch our breath.

I'd love to hear what you can add to the conversation...

In your most challenging times, what practices have helped you re-connect with why you choose the difficult path of being intentional?


  1. When I make appointments to do something even if it is to just call someone and ask how a particular event turn out ...having a calendar that reminds me of what I promised to do... even if I drop the ball I find I eventually pick it up. This keeps me moving forward. I practice this with people I am in a mentoring relationship with and I probably need to find someone to mentor me so that I have someone intentionally keeping me accountable about personal goals.

    1. Yes, I have found my list/calendar helps keep me on track and having someone to gently remind me of what I said I wanted to be/do also has been a great source of encouragement.

  2. Susan, I needed to hear these words today. You are a blessing to me.

    1. Thanks, Erica. I hope things are well with you and your family. Love seeing the pictures of Rosalie!