“See I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19.
In my old position I facilitated change processes with congregations. I worked with teams of leaders from congregations. I worked with them, they worked with their congregation. I knew the stages of the strategy. I knew what was next. I was the change agent, and they were the ones being changed. It was nice. It was comfortable.
As I was leading these local strategies, my denomination started its own internal change process. Since I studied change, I recognized the process and trusted the leaders. My colleagues and I were included in some of the listening and learning phases, but we weren’t part of the big decisions. When the innovations were rolled out, there was a bit of grumbling. We gathered in small groups and the questions mumbled up: How is this supposed to help? Why do they think this will work? Why didn’t they ask us about that? What problems are they trying to fix?
We were all part of the same organization, but I could hear that we were not experiencing this process the same way. “We” were being changed by “them.” I listened to my colleagues and then, ever so smugly, announced:
We all lead adaptive change strategies! By definition, adaptive change is a discovery process where the end is unknown! The denomination is going through an adaptive change! This is what it feels like to be in a change process when you are not in charge. And this is what congregation members feel like in our processes.
My colleagues grumbled in recognition but maintained that they could have done things better, they could have told us more, they should have been more transparent. Evidently, being the one on the receiving end of the changes gave us license to complain and insinuate that they were, possibly, incompetent.
But God remembered by smugness and said:
“You are next. See, I am doing a new thing in your life, now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?
Oh, I perceived it alright. God knows better than to be subtle with me. The new thing was obvious, it scared me--and that surprised me. I thought I was all about the new thing! Turns out I really only like ‘new things’ when they are my idea. I like being the change agent, not the recipient. Maybe it’s not just me, maybe it’s you too, but what can we do?
One of the ways to minimize resistance to change is to listen for and protect what people treasure most. It’s one of the key principles of Appreciative Inquiry. I treasure congregations and I want the people in them to experience the fullness of God’s love for all people. It’s what I did in my old position, and the one before that, and the one before that. It’s why I developed Living the Resurrection in the first place.
Knowing what I treasure, I listened as God spoke to me through Scripture, through family, friends and through colleagues. I felt God nudging me to expand Living the Resurrection and turn it into my full-time work. It’s all a bit intimidating, but I trust that God is part of this. As I live into this new thing, I hear Matthew 28 complete the Isaiah 43 passage.
See I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it?
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
This blog and all the offerings on the Living the Resurrection website are the innovations that came out of my listening and learning. I’m still a bit afraid, but God has surrounded me with partners, associates, supportive colleagues, and family, so I know I’m not alone.
Change is difficult. Being changed is disturbing. But new life is springing forth from the ground of Jesus’ promise. Let’s be patient with one another as God helps each of us see that what we treasure is still part of God’s new thing. We can participate in what God is up to, even if it wasn’t our idea.