HH and I moved over the weekend from one home to another. We had three movers, TBC and TBSILE, and a couple of handy carts. With two sore arms (shoulder surgery on the right side in October and a tetanus shot on the left arm last week) I was not only coached to refrain from lifting anything heavier than my phone, I actually couldn’t.
But on Saturday night, I was in physical agony. Legs, back, and yes – shoulders ached as if I’d hiked for hours carrying a bag of rocks. And I did almost nothing except tell people where to put the sofa and lamps. Okay – and I also lifted more than my phone.
Moving always hurts. Either our bodies ache or our soul aches.
I have friends and family who have lived in the same home for most of their lives if not all of their lives. There is enormous comfort in living in one’s forever home, and yet a day will indeed come when those homes are emptied out too.
With each move comes a loss whether the move is from home to home or job to job or from one church to another church (or to no church.) And yet these new chapters are also full of adventure and new perspectives.
People can live in the same home for decades and scores of decades and never be stuck in the way they live out their lives. And others of us do get a little stuck in our ways.
I’ve shared many times George Bullard’s 60-40-20 theory: If most of our church members are at least 60 years old and have been Christian for at least 40 years and have been members of the congregation for at least 20 years there is an excellent chance that our church is stuck. Any change will be difficult.
And these are fighting words for our congregations who tell me they are ready for change but they are not.
Many of us are in “making the best of it” mode in many parts of our lives and this can be admirable. And it also negates what God can do if we will let God do it. God can infuse new life into our relationships, our financial situations, our outlook and definitely our spiritual lives if we will spend as much time in prayerful discernment as we spend defending the way we’ve always done things.
Something I see all too often: a congregation knows that something needs to change. They call in consultants. They ponder merging with another church. They consider moving to a new location. They call a new pastor. They get rid of a current pastor. They paint the door green.
They spend an enormous amount of energy considering options that will help them survive and yet when it comes to moving either physically or culturally, they just can’t do it. It will hurt too much.
These are the congregations which will die in the next five years – and with the impact of COVID their time of death is closer than they expect.
On this Tuesday after Moving Weekend, I am still achy. The pains of moving physically and culturally take their toll, but what lies ahead for me and HH is fresh and clean and clear. We love our new place and not merely because we have two sinks in our bathroom for the first time in our lives.
We love the new sounds at night. We love the new neighbors. We love the new views outside our windows. It’s an adventure that only God knows about in detail. I’m excited.
I’m also excited when a church tells me that they’ve made a decision to move on a new building plan, a new mission focus, a new way of worshiping, a new partnership in the community. They are moving even if they are not changing geographic locations.
When we let the Spirit move, we move. And the pain lasts only a short while.