Change is inevitable. We can welcome it, embrace it, flow with it, or resist it tooth and nail – but we can’t prevent it.
Not all changes are good, but not all changes are bad either. Although it’s often said that we tend to get more conservative and set in our ways as we get older, I have found – well into my fifties – that God keeps stirring the pot, keeps messing with my neat little programs and my packaged ideas of how things should be. I believe He has a purpose in not leaving me alone. You see, more than twenty years ago I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, and I understood this to mean that my will was no longer my own. That means if God wants to mess with my plans He has the absolute and sovereign right to do exactly that. More to the point (since He had that right anyway, being God) – my decision to surrender my life to the Lord also means that I need to embrace what he is doing rather than resisting it. I find that this appoach to life helps to keep me flexible. I want to be deeply rooted in the unchanging nature of God, yet ready to respond to the new adventures into which He is constantly calling those who love and serve Him.
At the moment, in my life, the biggest new thing is a change in my church involvement. Marion and I have had four good years at City Church, but we now sense that we are being reassigned elsewhere. Ever since our years as part of the DOVE church-planting family, Marion and I have had a hunger to see the church function as a true Kingdom community, and a passion to see the church learn to make disciples relationally. Our years spent as church planters taught us many valuable lessons. One of those lessons was that we are not wired to be solo church planters, and that our best contribution would be made as support leaders in a team leadership situation. Once we realized this, we began crying out to God for a place of service in which we would have the joy of playing our part in seeing the church truly flourish. We want to be part of a church that has a lasting impact. We want to use the gifts and experience that He has invested in our lives where we can be most effective in fulfilling God’s call to be disciples and disciple-makers.
For many, impact means big events, large evangelistic rallies, concerts, programs, action campaigns, etc. While these things do have their place, we have learned that lasting impact comes through relationships, not primarily through large public events in which most of those present are nothing but spectators. In our view, the ideal church sees itself not as a collection of attendees at a weekly event, but as a family of families – a house built from the bottom up, not from the top down – a network of God-seekers linked together in a web of life-giving small groups. We believe this view is far closer to the teaching of the New Testament than more traditional views of church. For years it has been the cry of our hearts to be part of a church family that truly understood itself in this way.
Don’t let my love grow cold
I’m calling out, light the fire again
Don’t let my vision die
I’m calling out, light the fire again
For a variety of reasons that I won’t go into, over the past few months Marion and I began to realize that the vision described above was being severely challenged and tested, and we began to wonder if we would ever see it come to fruition. We were growing frustrated but not wanting to admit it. In mercy and wisdom the Lord began to stir our hearts and open our minds to the possibility that He might want to re-assign us elsewhere, but at first we truly were not ready to face this prospect. Change is good but we felt we had had our share over the past half-decade or so. However, the Lord evidently did not see things that way, and He has made it clear in a variety of ways that our time at City Church is over and that He is assigning us to a new family, a new place of service, a new church home. Our recent sabbatical from leadership responsibilities was an intentional choice to step back and test and evaluate this perception. The time of reflection has been profitable, and the sense that God is calling us into something new has been confirmed in a variety of ways.
Although we’re convinced that this new beginning is from God, actually stepping into it is proving to be more difficult than we had expected, as we have made many good relationships and will miss City Church. At the same time we are excited to sense God’s hand in leading us to a church that seems closer to the culture we had come to embrace as our own.
To all of those who were part of our years at City Church – we love you, we will miss you, but we aren’t going far. Thank you for all you have sown into our lives. Nothing is wasted in God’s Kingdom – every experience has value as we allow the Spirit to instruct us – and Marion and I have absolutely no regrets about our years at City Church. On the contrary, we are deeply grateful for this experience; it has taught us much.
To all the rest of you – I encourage you to think of change as a large ocean wave that is coming in towards shore. You are a surfer, and this wave looks bigger than you can handle – exciting, thrilling, but also a bit scary. I believe the Lord is saying that you have a choice about how to respond to this wave. Embrace it, welcome it, and you will be taken to new places as you ride the wave of what God is doing. Resist it and you will just end up getting all wet, banged around, and then thrown up on the shore.
Which outcome do you prefer? That’s up to you.
Which approach to life is more glorifying to God? I think you know the answer to that one.