Activating change

For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. - 2 Timothy 1:6

This is where we began our current sermon series, fanning into flame the gift of God that is within each of us. This fanning is not only necessary for us individually, but for the Church as a whole. After all, the church is nothing more than a collection of believers in Jesus Christ.  Therefore, from time to time, we have to fan into flame our collective gifts. When we do that, we often find that in order for our flame to burn at its brightest for the longest period of time, changes have to be made.

And that’s when the wheels come off. Tradition is powerful. Change can be time consuming, frustrating and even costly. We don’t like change because change means that things are going to be different and as humans we like things to be predictable and relatable. In short, we like things the way we like them.

In his book, “Unstuck Church,” Tony Morgan explains it this way, “Some people, out of pride, will certainly oppose change. Possibly the change affects an area they have previously led or are currently carrying. Other people experience fear. They worry that they may lose their significance or they possibly feel anxious over the financial risk of the change”. 

What Morgan is getting at here is that change is a very personal thing.  It involves our egos, it threatens our traditions, and it messes with our memories. Sometimes it’s specific things like “You can’t change the altar, I was married in front of that altar” or “You can’t repurpose the rooms, we need their specific purpose.” Sometimes, it’s the thing we all have said, “This is the way we’ve always done it”. The problem with these thoughts are they are backwards thinking. Don’t get me wrong; tradition is important, memories are priceless. However, we are called to evolve and transform. And honestly, what worked yesterday doesn’t necessarily work today.

Morgan makes a very important point in “Unstuck Church.” He says that “the pain of staying where you are, is much more harmful than the pain you’ll experience by going through the change”.  We know this here at Cason. For many years, we circled the wagons and focused on our own survival.  Our goal was to simply stay alive.  Everything else took a backseat.  Ministries were curtailed and new ministries had to be approved by the finance committee before they could be implemented. Resources were more important than mission. Keeping the doors open so that members could worship here was more important than making disciples.

3 years ago we spent time grappling with where we were and where God wanted us to be.  We made the hard choice to embrace change and move in a new direction. inSPIRE was born, and the fundamental structure of the church changed to move us from self-centered to outwardly focused. It was a huge success, but it was painful. Some people embraced the change and rededicated themselves to the church. Others either didn’t agree or didn’t see the need for change and pulled back or even left.  In many cases, the moment where friends, and even loved ones, leave the church is the moment that you question whether the change was worth it.
But Tony Morgan points out “… when major change is being executed, some people will inevitably leave… If your goal is to keep everyone happy and connected to the church, then the church will end up on life support”. Don’t hear me wrong… It’s not that we want people to leave the church. Cason is like a family, and losing family members is painful.  However, losing the Church itself would be more painful. But if we hadn’t committed to change, if we hadn’t refocused and committed to transform, that’s exactly what would have happened.

For those of you who have been reading this and wondering where I was heading, it’s simply this: the change isn’t over. We took some great first steps, such as reorganizing the administrative council to include leaders of missions and ministries, activating long dormant or underutilized spaces, analyzing our resources, both financial and physical and creating partnerships to help strengthen our budget and expand our mission field and making the tough request to the Conference to modify our clergy positions. Yes, we made great inroads into transforming Cason, but we have more work to do.

We must yet again embrace change so that we can continue on our transformational journey from a worship based church to a missional based church. We’ve come a long way from a time where our number one missional outreach was Bag Lunch. Today we have expanded our mission to feed the hungry through our partnership with Caring Kitchen and we have rebirthed our education mission through Cocoplum Environmental School. We have rededicated ourselves to an evangelical mission through our Seekers ministry, and resurrected our Children’s Ministry through Cason Kids Club, Our Cason Kids Chorus, and our new initiatives Cason Cares (social action mission) and Bible Buddies (Bible initiative for unchurched kids). And in the next few weeks, you will be hearing more about a partnership with Xcel Mentoring Network, which provide job and trade skills for young people between 15-25 years of age. More change is headed our way as we continue to streamline and define our employee job descriptions and the space we used for the administration of the church. We will also be spending time discerning a new way of church administration as we look to transform from a multi committee to single committee format.

But to do this, each of you must fan the flame of God’s gifts. You must take time and ask yourself a very important question: is God’s call in my life activated? Am I ready to listen to and follow God’s call? Do I see that the change Cason is experiencing is missional, and not just change for changes sake? I encourage you to prayerfully consider all of this, and join us as we continue to fan the flame so that we truly are where all will find and know the love of God.

P.S. I will be offering a book study based on The Unstuck Church on Wednesdays evenings at 6:00 pm starting on September 14th. This group will meet via Zoom. See the Good News for more information.

Pastor David

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