21 September, 2006

Hey, Who Moved My Cheese?

I felt compelled this morning to pick up and re-read (for the ump-teenth time) a wonderful little book called "Who Moved My Cheese?" written by Spencer Johnson.
In this book Johnson spins a parable about how we deal with change. The four characters in his story, pictured to the right, are Hem, Haw, Sniff and Scurry. It is a delightful little tale that uses "cheese" to represent what makes us happy in life, which is represented by a maze.
The story is about how characters are faced with changes that come unexpectantly and how they cope with these changes. It weaves a great lesson for us all.
If you have never read the book, may I recommend you pick a copy up or go to the library and check it out.

I believe the Holy Spirit directed me back to this book this morning. The fact is, we all must contend with and deal with change. It is inevitable. If you don't go with the changes, you will be left behind and stagnate or die right where you are. This is true in every area of our life, including our churches. I know change is not always easy. Sometimes it is. But change is necessary. I have spoken of the River several times in the past. Rivers flow. Try to dam up a river and it will only work for a little while. It will change it's course, or it will back up and over flow with a giant crash... but the river is going to flow!

The church where I pastor is going through a tremendous change right now. It is not one done by human design, but I see God's hand all over it. We have seen several who have been a part of this church for many, many years leave us. Some left in anger, but most just felt it was time to walk in a different direction. Like I said, change is going to happen. Looking out over the church body, I hardly recognize this church as the one I came to pastor 28 months ago. The faces have changed. The structure has changed. The worship is changing. Yet, we are the same church, pursuing the same God. Someone asked me just yesterday why we could not just do what it takes to bring everyone back and be the way we used to be. This person went on and on through the list of who left and the reasons they "had heard" that they left for. This person protested, "I don't want all this change. I want our people back. I want things the way they were before you came." I'd almost swear I heard them say... "Who Moved My Cheese?"
I won't even go there to answer these challenges today, but suffice it to say... change is necessary... change must happen, and if you do not change and go with the flow, you will die where you are. And as Johnson points out in his book... change does not just happen once, but it happens again and again and again; and we have got to be ready to change when change is necessary and adapt to that change quickly. For what ever reason, the church world is always extremely slow to change, and therefore we are lagging way behind the society we live in, and we have become increasingly irrelavant to the world we live in.
The dictionary defines irrelavant as: "
Not relevant; not applicable or pertinent; not bearing upon or serving to support."
Let's be brutally honest; How much of our church activities are not applicable or pertinant to the lives of those in our community? What are we doing that has any bearing on lives in our community outside our own four walls? Are we doing anything that would cause those in our community to have a curiousity, a hunger or a desire to check out what is going on in our church?
Those are tough questions that we must begin to ask.

Truthfully, much of what we do in church is like going through the maze again and again "looking for the cheese" where it has always been.
We know it worked before, so let's do it again.
But the cheese has been moved.
God is doing a new thing in a vastly different culture than what most of us grew up in.

Spencer suggests in his book that we smell the cheese often so that we know when it is getting old. Much of what we have been doing is out of habit, and frankly, it is going after old cheese. God is doing a fresh new thing in the land, and we must change our course and go after it!


Tony said...

Hey Darrell,

I laughed out loud when I read the title! That is great!

Seriously, I am glad change is taking place. I have been serving a rural, traditional church for nearly five years and change does not come very easily. There are so many things that need to change or improve that it is sometimes so overwhelming. We can become so complacent.

Praying for you and your ministry!

Neil said...

Read Johnson's book "The Present"
About the same size, revolutionary thinking.

Though it may be a difficult time in your life and ministry, your people love you but can't understand the transitional period, teach them to appreciate the process. When making wine, it is allowed to sit in a vessel until all the impurities come to the top, they float around and attach themselves to the vessel, it is then poured into a new vessel and the impurities, called dregs, remain in the old vessel...it can't make the trip, but doesn't need to, for whatever reason it was there it has served its purpose, made its deposit, and now must remain...so it is in the new vessel God is creating in your ministry...you are crossing over!

Deborha's Palm Tree said...

I am just amazed! Last week I too picked up that book to re-read it! Neil is right "The Present" is a great book. You mentioned something very interesting...keep your nose on the cheese? Get familiar with what is good, what is pure...then we will not be deceived and will know the scent to follow...and be able to find it again when we find it isn't where it used to be! We need to move with HIM, (OIY! I just realized I am comparing cheese to the Holy Spirit! Or visa-versa!) Well, I am sure you get the point...Pastor..you amaze me...God Bless you leaders...we love ya!

ruthrap said...

we all tend to get a little miffed when "our cheese gets moved". I've never read that book, but it sounds interesting. whether we admit it or not, most of us have a fear of change, change means redirection, following a different path. it also means leaving that comfort zone. It's like you said, Darrell, the river is flowing, moving, and the ones sitting on the bank won't go anywhere, if we want to be a part of what God has in store for us we'll have to make the leap and roll with the flow!

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

It depends on what is changing, who is changing it, and for what reason it is being changed.

"Change" just for the sake of "change" is not always a positive thing.

And particularly is this true in church life. We are "changing people" who serve a Never-changing Saviour!

Great post! I do believe there is room in the "church" for everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and who live out that confession.

As the "family of God" we are truly all in this together. And we need to live like that.