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!