Sunday, November 29, 2009

Want to See Change? Are You Willing to Do This?

"What sacrifices will you make for the change you want to see?"

That's the question I've been asking lately - for myself, my family, my ministry for Christ, for neighbors and nations. I want to see more people I know entering the Kingdom of God and serving joyfully for Christ. I want to increase the number of people competent to teach God's Word to others. I want my children to be strong in the Lord. I want our marriage to honor the Lord. I want to be a wiser leader and better steeped in Scripture. I want our church to grow by conversion and be an equipping center for sending people to neighbors and nations. I want to lose fat and build muscle so I can serve others better.

There are many changes I want to see. But positive changes require sacrifice. I will have to give up something that I kind of like, secretly enjoy, or even something that's been very effective in the past, in order to see the changes I want to see.

Much of my day-to-day life is built on mindsets, habits, and practices that I've held for months and years, and those routines are generally what produce the results I see. I have habits for studying the Word and for prayer, and routines about when and what I eat, how much I sleep, how I interact with my family and friends, how I spend money, what I do for entertainment. I'm not completely on autopilot, but I do have a many functional habits, rituals, and routines.

This is true for churches as well as individuals. We have treasured mindsets, habits, practices and routines that drive much of our time and energy. Routines and predictability give us comfort and give us strong foundations, up to a point. When they become the focus rather than God, they're idols. They're deadweight that pulls us down. Jesus is life, not rituals.

I'm not saying everything is bad and must be sacrificed! When we plateau and stop growing, then we need to seriously ask what needs to be sacrificed to grow again. If we want to see different results - positive changes - then we must wisely discern what mindsets, habits, practices, and routines need to be different. In short, we have to address the question "What sacrifices will you make for the change you want to see?"

We're weak people, of course. We tend to exploit two strategies to shortcut this question and avoid making sacrifices.

(1) First, we rationalize that the change we desire isn't going to happen anyway, or for a very long time, or is just not realistic for the near future. So we don't need to change anything about the way we live.

(2) Second, we displace the need for change on someone else. "I'm fine, I don't need to make any painful changes - it's those other people who need to change. Then everything would get better."

Be mature. Don't allow either of these to derail you from a tremendous growth opportunity, and drawing closer to God in obedience.

(If I haven't made you uncomfortable yet, please go back to the beginning and reread.)

Let me help you unpack your thinking.

Mindsets. How do you think about yourself? How you think about your spouse and children and extended family? How do you think about God's call on your life? What do your behaviors tell you about how you really think about people and situations?

Habits. Is there something mindless and useless that takes up more than a few moments of your week that needs to be sacrificed, however enjoyable? What are some habits that you know do not help you or help others? What are some positive habits that may still be a distraction from the desired change you seek?

Practices. What's the good thing which is the enemy of the best thing? Is there a constructive shakeup to the order in which you do things? What habits contribute to "numbed autopilot stumble along through life" behavior rather than dynamic growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Routines. What are our conventional schedules and programs which keep up busy enough to have no margin for creating and developing new ministry areas? What are the "sacred" things in our church life which have a big "Don't Touch" label - and why? What would it take to hear equal parts criticism and "Wow!" responses?

Working through this takes humility and prayer.

Let's push ahead for Christ's sake!

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