Yesterday was a watershed day for me and our congregation as I announced in the Sunday morning services some changes in my role at Bridgewood Community Church. After nearly sixteen years of having the honor of being Bridgewood’s founding and senior pastor, I will be handing off the baton of senior leadership on May 16, to Mark Spencer. Then, beginning in June I will continue on staff, but in a part-time capacity. (The full text of my letter to the congregation including the details of these changes is available on our church website.)
Like a lead-off relay runner nearing the end of his stage of the relay, I have sensed God preparing me and our church family for such a handoff. God has been stirring my heart for several years with a desire and opportunities for a new phase in my ministry beyond Bridgewood in the areas of consulting, teaching and writing. At the same time God has also been preparing the Bridgewood family by bringing Mark to us and integrating him as part of our staff over the past two years.
In my message yesterday, entitled Fearless in Transition, I addressed the fact that for the majority of people change and transition are difficult. The combined results of an interactive poll taken both services confirmed that, as nearly 55 % admitted flat out, they do not like change. Of that group, 10% said they hate it. Of the remaining 45% who admitted that most of time, it’s not a problem, only 11% said they actually love change.
This is obviously something I and the rest of the leadership at Bridgewood want to be sensitive to as we move through this transition. The change event can come and go, but the internal transition and adjustment of the heart usually takes a while to catch up. And there is a process we all must move through from anticipation, aggravation and adaptation to appreciation.
For my part however, I must confess that I am really looking forward to the new things God has for me. I am one of those 11% who love change. Having been conditioned for change during my childhood and youth has often given me an extra measure of tolerance when it comes to major changes in my life. You see my father’s profession necessitated frequent relocations. No, he wasn’t a gypsy nor in the military. He was a salesman and territory manager for one of the nation’s largest farm equipment manufacturers.
From birth to leaving home for college, we lived in three states, nine towns and twelve homes while I attended seven different schools. At the time I felt it was a distinct disadvantage and often let my parents know. The toughest part of course was making and keeping friends. But as with nearly everything in life, there is God’s redemptive side of hardship. And in this nomadic lifestyle for me, one big positive I took away from it was an ease in adapting to new environments and letting go of the old.
That in fact is the essence of adapting to change, coming to a point of letting go of our fixation on the old in order to fully embrace the new. Jesus, in referring to our natural bent to resist change said in Luke 5:39 – “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
My prayer for myself and all those affected by the changes in my life and in the church is that we will be caught up with focusing on the positives of God’s unfolding future. When God is really in something, as we sense He is in all this, then we can anticipate that compared to the old, the new will be much better for everyone involved.