08 May, 2010

Who Moved My Cheese... Again!

After receiving a message from someone who read a blog entry of mine from almost 4 years ago, I decided to re-visit that blog and update it. This is even more relevant in my church today than it was in September 2006.

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 above 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. Life is continually in a state of flux and 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. Let's be honest, sometimes it is... and sometimes change is difficult, even scary. For some, they resist change so strongly and are so unyielding in their resolve not to change that without realizing it, they make even bigger changes in their life by trying not to change! For example, someone who does not like the changes in their church, so they pick up and leave that church to go to another. Hello? You don't like change, so you change churches?It would be funny if it were not so sad. Change is necessary. Without change, things...churches.. people die.

A few years ago the Lord gave me a vision of the river. (Read about it here) I have spoken of the River several times in the past, and although I've not spoke of it recently, I still believe God is taking us on that journey. The point is, rivers flow. Try to dam up a river and it will only work for a little while. You may hold it back for a little while, but eventually 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 began a dramatic shifting and changing last August and has been a rather violent shaking ever since. We are going through change, and I am convinced that this change is is not one done by human design. Looking back over the last year I can see God's hand all over it. We have seen several leave the church. Some who had been with us a couple of years pulled up stakes and left in mass. A few others trickled out afterward. Then just recently some who have been a part of this church for many, many years left without saying a word. The funny thing is, none of them have left in anger, but rather they just felt it was time to walk in a different direction. Sadly, the shifting has had some left some casualties as some have not only left our church but have turned their back on God completely.

Like I said, change is going to happen. Looking out over the church the past couple of weeks I have to admit that I hardly recognize this church as the one I came to pastor almost six years ago. The faces have changed. The "make up" of the church has changed. The worship style and fervency has changed. Yet, through all the change, we are the same church, pursuing the same God. Just this past week I sat in the home of one of the "old-timers" and she listed off who left since I have been here, and questioned why they would leave their church. That reminded me of the time I originally wrote this blog and an encounter with a person back then that was very similar. That person also listed the people who had left and recited the reasons she had heard that they left the church. That person had said to me, "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'm not writing this in a defense of myself, no need to. Suffice it to say... change is necessary... change must happen, and if you do not change and go with the flow, you will be left behind or die where you are. And as Spencer 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.

The fact is, that 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? The questions that we should be asking ourselves are: "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.
We did this with the Ladies Ministries 10 years ago... let's do it again!
We did this with the youth group before... let's try that again!
And over and over and over again we want to go back to what is comfortable, what once worked... 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, and we have to adapt... or be left behind or die!
Yes, it worked... it was wonderful... and we have great memories... but we cannot go back. When you go backward, you stop progressing.
I have wonderful memories from my childhood and flannel graph boards in Sunday school. It was amazing that you could stick Zacchaeus in a tree and he stayed there! Or Jesus walking on water or being lifted in the air. To us in 1966 that was amazing stuff... but to the kids of 2010 that is lame! They are used to computer technology and digital video. Use flannel graph to this generation and you have lost them in a heartbeat. The cheese has been moved!
There was a time when you could throw up a tent, begin to play music and crowds gathered to the tent revival. Today, they have no need to go to a tent. They can turn on the television set at any time, 24/7 and there in their living room they can have the finest entertainment (face it, to the sinner, it is entertainment) and preaching from around the globe. The cheese has been moved and we must change the way we do things!

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! If we don't, we will be left behind and die where we are.

No comments: