Dr. James Emery White

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

When to Make a Change

I like the feel of a new year. The resolutions, the new beginnings, the sense of “change” in the air…

Yet I wonder if we know when to make a change. Yes, we know what we want to change, and when we have windows of opportunity, but that is different than knowing when it is time to change no matter what the cost. 

The time when we need to change as though our life depended on it.

When should it be clear that we must do whatever it takes to make a New Year’s resolution a New Year’s revolution? Until we know, it is doubtful we will change at all. Here are five ideas that may speak to the answer:

  • You are disgusted and revolted at how things currently stand.
  • You are facing the same need for change you faced last year.
  • You are embarrassed at what you see in the mirror – the mirror on the wall, the mirror of other people’s eyes, and the mirror of God when you are still and silent before Him.
  • In terms of life’s seasons, you are entering your last, best chance for change that will impact your last, best years.
  • You are losing your self-respect and self-esteem.

These are deeply personal feelings, and not ones you would commonly share. But unless acknowledged, and owned, the real work of change will never be engaged. Change isn’t a target on the wall; it’s despising the way things are more than despising what it will take to be different.

But it’s not just individuals who must face this introspection for change.

It’s churches.

When do you know it’s time to change there? Some things are obvious, such as when a culture of division or discord, or patterns of sinful behavior, has taken root.

But a surprising number of churches, free of such obvious matters, find themselves at a loss as to know when they should think deeply about substantive change.

So here are just three ideas to chew on:

  • When it’s clear your growth is either flat or in decline, and has been for some time.
  • When you sense that certain current practices are inhibiting the optimal fulfillment of your mission.
  • When you are more concerned about not offending insiders than doing what it takes to reach outsiders.

Who knows?

Wresting with one or more of these might just make it more of a new year than you had imagined.

James Emery White

 

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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About Dr. James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.

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