Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
I’m currently taking a class in congregational redevelopment at the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia. Earlier today I emailed my staff back home and told them how excited I was to share some of what I’ve learned with them. The conversation went like this…
“How’s the class boss?”
“It’s great. I’m learning a lot about how we can transform our congregation.”
“Oh. Do you think it needs to be transformed?”
“Yes. Of course it does. We all need transformation. We need renewal – new life. We aren’t complete yet.”
“Cool. I guess I just think of change when I hear the word transformation. I like the part about us not being complete.”
“By transformation I do mean change.”
After that conversation I spent the latter half of the day wondering why Lutherans (but you can insert your own denomination here) are so afraid of change. My staff is amongst the most faithful and courageous people I know, and even they are reticent to change – even they balk at the idea of transformation.
Change is hard. It requires that we not only admit that we aren’t complete, but also accept that there are things that we need to let go of or take on. When we hear that we need to change, it hits us personally. We prefer the comfort of our broken past to the discomfort of an uncertain future. No amount of denial, however, changes the reality that change is inevitable and necessary.
Martin Luther is famous for sparking the reformation of the church. He initiated significant change. And yet, his church infamously deplores it. Perhaps we would do well to ignore the pastors of today (like me) and listen instead to what he has to say on the matter. Luther writes:
This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.
After Luther’s church began to change, they thought they were good – that they’d arrived. He reminds them, “…this is not the end, but it is the road.
We are not yet what we shall be. Thus, transformation – including change – is on the way. It won’t be easy, but it will nudge us towards that which gleams in glory and shape us into that which God would have us be.
In the Way,
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