Is your spiritual community or church changing or feel different to you lately? If the changes make you uncomfortable, try these 8 suggestions to move through the change before bailing or complaining.
Resisting change may have nothing to do with others. Your reaction might be about you. Take a risk and look within at who you are in the change. You might be stuck in a pattern that doesn't serve you, the church, or God. Self-inquiry can lead to powerful self-discovery and growth, and take you on new paths in your spiritual life. You might experience church in ways you never imagined. Perhaps they will experience you in a whole new way too.
Old dogs can learn new tricks. Gandhi's quote "Be the Change" might be popular, but Jesus had an even better one:
"Be the Love."
Learning to be more flexible and creative when things are changing not only expresses love for your neighbor, but you may discover self-inquiry allows you to love yourself and God more too.
- Celebrate each other. Find what you love in those you don't. Its there. You just have to let go of your attachment to the idea that you don't like that thing about them. Ask yourself again why you don't like them. Now share it with God. What did that feel like? Do you have that quality too? :)
- Laugh at yourself. Especially when you're a stick in the mud. Do you feel stupid when you don't know what's going on? Flow with it, baby. It's for you.
- Be teachable. If you're cringing at new practices or church changes more than you like, ask others to help you understand or see it differently. What do others like about particular changes? Why don't you like it? Is there something you're not learning from it? What would help you learn to see what's there for you? Or do you think church as you know it is the only way to do church? Why do you think that?
- Pay attention. For instance, if you're one of the older members, are you validating yourself with input and agreement from other old people? Is your resistance actually a need to control - feel like you are; or is there a reason you feel it's truly inappropriate? If it's inappropriate, ask yourself why? Then ask why 6 more times, each time going deeper. You may discover it's your issue. If you don't find it's your issue, you will find the real answer to why you don't think it's appropriate.
- Say YES. Is someone gifted offering to help, but you reject it? Why? Get honest and talk about it openly with someone else or the group. Self-inquiry works. So does open and honest communication. The person offering the help will respect you more for your willingness to look at yourself with humility and get to the root of your resistance. If the person isn't gifted or aligned with the goals of the whole, bring it out in the open to be sure it's true. Just don't kick a gift horse in the mouth because you feel threatened.
- Diversify! If your structure is shaped by the same people who've led your community for a long time, take it outside. Chances are leadership has adapted to a comfort zone. They might be agreeable for fear of stirring the pot, or the group was designed - consciously or unconsciously - to be like-minded. Are new people included in decision making? Maybe it's time to shake it up and take it to a larger group in your church community for a more diverse and honest conversation that includes those coming in the doors recently. Your community depends on it.
- Take yourself lightly There's a riddle that asks, Why do angels fly so high? Answer: Because they take themselves lightly. Doing things differently is not the end of the world. Go with it. And ask yourself who you want to be? A wet rag or the bearer of joy? Are you the person who discourages people and dampens spirits; or someone with a sincere curiosity to learn why or how others appreciate new and different ways of doing things?
- Inquire Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. Don't make assumptions about what's right or wrong. Learn from it. Seek to understand. If it irks you when some people suddenly start referring to God as Presence or the Divine, ask them why they prefer it. If your pastor no longer uses the Apostles Creed during the service, learn the reason (from the pastor). If changes in the order of a church service upsets you, ask yourself why it must always be the same. There's a good chance you'll learn something. If you don't, pray about it sincerely. And listen for the response.
- Test your beliefs. Do you believe your church must be aligned to a conservative or liberal worldview? Does this identity feel important to you? Ask yourself why. Do you encourage others to "Vote the Bible?" If so, consider revisiting this notion in case you've got it wrong, right, or confused. Certainty about "voting the Bible" is sticky business and not advice to spread around unless you are certain. Test your ideology with others who don't hold the same views and explore each other's ideas honestly and vigilantly - with your heart turned toward God. Maybe everyone will learn something. While you're at it, ask yourself and God if you're holding your church back, or a oppressive force when you assume someone or something has another worldview. Remember - you could be wrong. Perception, assumptions, and spiritual truth are very different things.
- Start a Change Group centered around change, understanding, and growth. Or call it a "Getting out of my comfort zone." Invite others resistant to change, and balance it with agents of change. Build trust.
Talk about what each person deeply values. Discuss rituals and practices that are meaningful to you. Share why they mean so much. Tell each other why other rituals are not meaningful or useful. Sometimes it's not the practice, but the timing. Share what doesn't work in the flow too. Tell each other about your beliefs and the imagery that characterizes you spiritual journey. Perhaps, how each of you experience or picture God - to hear the differences and similarities. Watch videos and share readings that speak from different perspectives, or in different language. Talk to each other from your hearts.
Create some ground rules or guidelines, like
a. No defending or promoting your preference. Simply share it.
b. Share your feelings and experiences around what you value, not your thesis or documentation. Why it's personally meaningful.
c. No personal attacks.
d. With each complaint, include self-inquiry that's willing to honestly explore your reaction. It may be a revelatory learning experience that frees you.
<e. Listen deeply. This means with all of you. Listen as if your life depends on it so you hear the deeper values and emotions behind the words someone is speaking.
f. Create new ideas and practices together. Travel together as a community of people willing to explore uncharted waters in your church tradition. This includes new and the old ways.
Help each other understand; and most of all, create a safe place to be uncomfortable. That's what church is. It's a great place to be uncomfortable and grow together. You'll soon find a harmony that just might spill over into the service - especially if you invite the pastor to participate.
Be the Love.