Change. Older people are often criticised for their resistance to it. But this resistance is not found uniquely among the older generations.
When I was 15 and at secondary school, the possibility of girls having the option to wear uniform trousers was raised. I was vehemently opposed. Looking back, it seems a somewhat surprising response from teenager who lived in jeans outside of school hours. I came up with many reasons to support my view which I submitted articulately and with suitable eloquence. However, to be honest, there was only one reason. I didn’t like change. And to be honest, when that winter I found myself shivering in a skirt and tights I found myself severely regretting my resolute stance!
Today, many years later, the girls at my alma mater are still wearing dresses and skirts, much like the girls at most other private schools in Victoria. Why? Most likely: tradition. There is often great wisdom, value and beauty to tradition. But sometimes, traditions are maintained, simply because we do not like change.
My eldest daughter struggles with change. At only five years of age she has organized her life into a series of routines, rituals and patterns and finds any alteration most disagreeable. This anecdotal evidence serves to reinforce my opinion that resistance to change is not age dependent. Rather there seems to be something about us as human beings that makes tradition appealing and change uncomfortable.
Despite my personally intrinsic inclination to resist change, personality and work style surveys demonstrate that I can be very flexible and am generally in favour of new and exciting initiatives. Is this a contradiction? No, not really. In order to change, I usually need to be inspired by and convinced of the purpose. I suspect the same is true for many others. Even when it is purposeful I can still find change uncomfortable. What encourages me is remembering and focusing on the purpose.
God does not change. The truth of the Gospel does not change. Yet, change is fundamental to becoming and growing as a believer of Jesus Christ (eg 2 Cor 3:18, Rom 12:1-2). Through blood, sweat and tears God has been transforming me as a disciple of Jesus and yet there is still far more to come! I am however, excited about this change – as hard as I know it will be. Regular change is also necessary for churches if we want to see ministry not only sustained but growing in vitality as we reach out in our ever changing world. St Stephen’s Warrandyte is no exception. The key however, is that this change must be based in our purpose to glorify God in Warrandyte and beyond. We cannot expect people to support change unless they understand and support the purpose. And this is a good thing. We need to be cautious about change. When we are on board with the purpose, change can be exciting rather than scary! And when we are convinced of the purpose, change can lead to great fruit.
As a leader, making changes is not terribly difficult. The harder and also more important part is walking with people on the journey of identifying and becoming passionate about our purpose as a church community. It has been exciting to partner with the leadership committee of St Stephen’s as we prayerfully seek to discern God’s purpose for us here in Warrandyte and beyond. We believe that God has called us to be a welcoming community that through the power of the Spirit; worships God, shares the good news of Jesus and raises growing disciples of Jesus. We believe that God has given us a unique opportunity to bless Warrandyte.
At our most Recent River gathering we spent time thinking about the way that we can be a missional community, specifically blessing those around us with the love of God in Christ Jesus. I am really excited about the ideas gathered and the willingness of St Stephen’s to be a community that acknowledges and enjoys the wisdom of tradition and yet embraces purposeful change. I pray that we will humbly submit to God’s transformation in our lives. That we will hold steadfast to the unchanging truth of God’s word and yet have the flexibility and openness to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit as we seek to make God’s word known in our community.