One of the greatest life stresses one can experience happens when their spouse dies. A few years ago, someone I know was devastated when her husband of 54 years passed away. Not only was she grieving, but she also had to go through a lot of big changes. She had to make major decisions about finances, something she didn’t have to do before because her husband handled those things. She had to become the guiding force in her family, a mantle which she took up with grace, patience and wisdom. I think that she handled those very difficult changes very well.
The reason that the changes this person faced were so hard was because she was facing an adaptive challenge. Her life situation had changed. She could no longer live life as she used to. She had to adapt to her new reality if she was going to move forward in life. It was very, very hard, but she did it!
Most people do not like change, but the type of change that we are most familiar with is technical change. Getting a new job in the same career field, buying a new car with a touch screen display, or purchasing a new computer with a different operating system are all examples of technical change. Technical change happens when there is a technical challenge that requires resources and new techniques to solve.
Adaptive change has a much greater degree of difficulty. Additional resources or new techniques will not solve the challenges our new context has thrown at us. When the ice melts on our local hockey pond, new skating techniques are not going to help us. We have to change ourselves and learn how to function in a new way.
I believe that our church is facing an adaptive challenge. The things we use to do to reach the people around us don’t work anymore because our culture has changed. People who aren’t already part of a church are not looking for one. We have an unreached people group all around us and we have to learn how to reach them with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We cannot simply abandon them to eternal condemnation because the adaptive challenge is too hard for us. Jesus is not going to let us step out of the Mission that He has given to make disciples for Him and say, “That’s okay.” When we abandon God’s Mission, we cease to be a church. We might be a social club or a service group, but not a church.
There isn’t a quick fix to the dilemma before us. We will have to face the harsh reality of our present situation. We can begin by asking ourselves a couple of questions. First, “What changes do we need to make to reach the people of our community with the Good News of Jesus?” and then, “What within us is preventing us from making those changes?” The answer to the second question will identify the adaptive change that we will need to make.
It is very difficult, but not impossible, for an organization to make an adaptive change. It will take all of us—praying, talking, and working together—to successfully navigate our adaptive challenge. Be assured that we will not change what God has commanded or forbidden. Yet there will be loss and grief along the way as we say good-bye to things we treasure, but they are holding us back.
I am confident that God has already put the solution to our adaptive challenge inside of our church. He will help us to discover how we need to change, and He will help us to make the changes that we need to make to become a church that effectively reaches people with the Good News of Jesus in our 21st century West Coast culture. This is not too big a problem for God.
Dear Jesus, You have been helping Your people adapt to new mission challenges for centuries. We pray that You would help us adapt to the mission challenge that we are facing. May You be glorified in our church as we seek to follow You wherever You lead us. Amen.