Readiness to Change The Future

“Start walking” never looked so good.

The Readiness Factor for Growth

People, organizations, even complex organizations like churches, change when they are ready to change. There has to be a readiness to change. In the John 5 story (see below), the paralyzed man by the pool was not ready to change until that day he met Jesus. Not ready? Nope.

Instead of taking responsibility for his situation, he made excuses. Remember he offered the excuse, “Someone always gets to angel-troubled waters before me!” (when you hear an excuse, somebody’s not yet ready to take responsibility.)

So Jesus does a little intelligence gathering and then walks over to the paralyzed man who was likely readying another excuse when he must have heard himself. Ta Da! In that moment, he saw what Jesus saw, what everybody else saw, too; a man with thirty-eight years of excuses, avoiding responsibility. He recognized that in thirty-eight years, he was no better off. He was only more miserable, still alone by the pool, and oh yeah, older too.

Jesus did not argue with the man about the past, about the angels, about the others who got in first, about his waiting such a terribly long time. Jesus essentially asked, “How’s that working for you?” Jesus said don’t jump into the pool, but into the future. He had to take responsibility for himself and take the first step he alone could make. Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.”

Organizations are like people.

They are alike and they are different. Not every church is at the same place developmentally, spiritually, organizationally, or operationally. These are the psychological and sociological implications of the metaphor of the Body of Christ.

It is characteristic of island cultures to believe that the people on the island are substantially different from those on continents even to the point that the same medicines that are effective in other places will lose their efficacy when applied locally. Crazy, right?

But followers of Jesus are the Body of Christ. If we focus too heavily on our differences, we cannot learn from one another, cannot collaborate, and cannot commune. We loose the potential of a united witness to the world.

If we focus too heavily on the sameness, we stifle individualization and creativity and our unique sent-ness into the world by the Holy Spirit. So the question is not whether all a presbytery’s congregations are large or small; new or old; urban, suburban, ex-urban; predominately mono-cultural or multi-cultural; theologically diverse or unified, well financed or lacking resources; racially and/or ethnically diverse or not.

We need clarity about what is common and what is distinctive.

Common to all the people, “Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem,” by the pool was they were all in need of a hopeful future.

Distinctive to all was their individual readiness to change.

Each person, team, organization, group, or church will vary widely in their readiness to change, and what that change should look like for them. Some may be essentially decided and determined to change. The leaders can explore the depth of such apparent motivation, and begin consolidating commitment.

Others will be reluctant or even hostile at the outset. At the extreme, some groups may feel coerced by finances, context, or history to change, or remain unchanged. I respect that position. It is important to recognize, however, that remaining in that pre-contemplation stage of change is unsustainable in the longterm.

For churches, most congregations, however, have already entertained some change initiatives and perhaps even created history to express the process somewhere in the contemplation stage. They may already be dabbling with taking action, but still need consolidation of motivation for change, or clarity for their vision. This may be thought of as the tipping point of a motivational balance. If your congregation is at this stage it is critical that you move away from a seesaw that favors status quo versus the other that favors change.

There are perceived benefits of changing, and feared consequences of continuing unchanged. The man by the pool had to decide if the hopeful, promised future captured in the words, “Start walking” was more compelling than the compromise endured by of the hundreds remaining as they were; life passing them by, counting the wasted years.

Our task together, in a presbytery and session partnership, as members of a team, is to shift the balance of weight in favor of change and growth. The man by the pool learned the consequences of a lack of readiness. We can move toward God’s preferred future of hope. Let’s get up and start walking.

Intelligence Break: The readiness for growth is uniquely determined by the person or group contemplating change.

  • What is the biggest downside to not growing, to the status quo winning?
  • How do you know when you’re ready to take a step in a new direction?
  • What is something you will change?
  • How will you know it has changed?
  • How will you know you have grown?
Tell someone you trust you are ready for growth. Get up, start walking!

See previous blog: The Process of Growth

John 5:1-8 Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people; blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”
Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.