An u2018updraftu2019 in meteorology characterises a stormu2019s early development as warm air rises, eventually bringing the rains that offer sustenance and life. Ricku2019s hope for this monthly updraft column is for it to be a catalyst for change, ultimately contributing to the transformation of our faith communities. This regular column first appears in the Northern Baptist Association monthly newsletter, u2018Northern Lightsu2019.

In the transformational change weu2019re experiencing today, we can often feel like a small ship at the mercy of strong winds and stormy waves, being tossed from here to there and back again.

What contributes to our challenging experience is the resistance that accompanies any change journey, or worse still, efforts of others to sabotage anything u2018new.u2019 This expected response to any change is beautifully articulated by Thanos, the chief villain in the Marvel movie, u2018Avengers: End Game.u2019 Thanos insightfully proclaims:

"As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist."

With an awareness of that mindset, how do we go about helping people see u2018what can be?u2019 How do we bring a sense of purpose, stability, and clarity in uncertain times? What will help our people walk together on the change journey ahead?

While recognising that challenges exist for us to embrace change, understanding the different ways in which we respond to change is a key part of working out a way forward. Bringing people along on the journey with us is critical to building momentum and embedding change in the community. With any change journey, we see those who are quick to embrace what has occurred (early adopters), others who are hesitant over a range of time, waiting to see what will happen (early and late majority) and others still who will resist and oppose change (laggards). As we respond to the changes in society and embrace the new work God is doing in our midst, we need to keep in mind that within our faith communities we will have people right across this spectrum. Each of us will be responding differently to change and in varying time intervals.

This reality helps us better understand why leading change can often feel like we are taking one step forward and then two back, seemingly making progress up the ladders then in the next moment travelling down the snakes, recalling the once popular board game of snakes and ladders.

For those of you in that space now, be encouraged to keep walking the path of change in the same direction. Change to culture (the u2018wayu2019 we do things and the u2018whyu2019 we do things the way we do) takes time to embed. Donu2019t yield to the temptation to give up, or allow the misbelief u2018itu2019s pointless even trying,u2019 to take root. Keep before you the sense of purpose God has laid upon your heart, and the calling he has on your life. Maintain integrity, remaining consistent in the direction youu2019re moving. Look for the early adopters and encourage them, look for the innovators, the creatives, those with a gift to birth new ministry initiatives, and empower them. Look to capture and share stories of the changes that are occurring. Give people hope as they start to see and hear and imagine a different reality of u2018what can be.u2019

Alongside this, we need to be prepared to lose people. Those currently involved are there because the community is the way it has been. As change occurs, people may realise they donu2019t want to be part of whatu2019s emerging. We need to accept that and be ok with that response. Make sure we help people to end their time with our community well, enabling them to move on with an openness to what God is continuing to do in them. Remember we are making changes with the purpose of following Godu2019s leading, not for changeu2019s sake. We are making changes to embrace a different, preferred future, rather than keeping people happy in the here and now. We do so with a hope that change will result in our effectiveness to bring gospel renewal to people and places in our local neighbourhoods.

Letu2019s also take a moment to consider how weu2019re responding to changes around us. Are we one of those resisting? If so, why? Why is it so important for us to be holding on to the status quo? What will we lose if change occurs? Perhaps itu2019s a sense of power, or identity, or fear of having to confront some of our deeply held beliefs and discovering they may not be right. Rather than continuing to resist, take some time to look within and allow God to reveal underlying motivations. Letu2019s view this time of transformational change as an invitation for each of us to personally grow and change within (more on the necessity of this next month). Where God is calling us to be part of the change journey, he will work in us to change us, helping us to see the road ahead with new eyes, enabling us to adapt, to walk along it. We must also be open to the possibility that God has achieved his purposes for us in our current community and be drawing our involvement to an end. If thatu2019s where weu2019re at, may God be our comfort and peace as we grieve an ending; may God be our wisdom and source of new hope as we continue to seek his plans and purposes for the next stage of our journey.

Ultimately, in this season where we may feel like weu2019re being tossed from side to side by the winds and waves of change battering against us, we find a solid foundation on which to stand through knowledge of Godu2019s presence with us. In Exodus 33, we see God promising that his presence would go with Moses and the Israelites as they set out on the journey towards the Promised Land. Moses replied, u2018If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth.u2019 (Exodus 33:15-16).

As we set out from where we are on a journey of re-envisioning and renewal, we realise how dependent we are on Godu2019s (Spirit) presence to be leading us. Itu2019s Godu2019s presence that is the life of our church communities, itu2019s Godu2019s presence which is at working in transforming us into Christlikeness, itu2019s Godu2019s presence that continues to sustain us and lead us into Godu2019s ways. In the midst of immense change, we need to remember we serve a God who is unchanging in his nature and character. As God has been faithful to his people in the past, so he will be faithful in the present and in the future. He who has begun a good work will be faithful to complete it!

May that reality strengthen us and hold us, even as the strong winds and stormy waves of change come against us. Weu2019re not at the mercy of change, but rather weu2019re at the mercy of a loving God who is holding us and bringing about his purposes in and through his people! As we wait on him and follow his presence together, weu2019ll discover that u2018what can beu2019 is far greater, more appealing, and more powerful, than what weu2019ve left behind!


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