It was September 2012, we were a week or two away from moving from one Sunday morning service to two congregations and I was sat to the side in our main hall looking across the assembled church family. Since we had confirmed the decision to make the move I had noticed a drop off in attendance. Not only that but I felt that things were very fragile. We had decided to do three things together, purchase a shop front, take on trainees and add a congregation. Each of these seemed to have the support of the majority but each also seemed to have a few vociferous opponents. I really felt that there was the risk that we would hit the metaphorical rocks and see the church break apart.
That’s when I remember turning to one of the other elders and saying.
“I think, I’ve just shipwrecked the church.”
His response was to remind me that it wasn’t really in my power to do this. Christ is the Lord of his church and he is the one who is able to protect and care for it. As it happened, we went through the next few months and saw steady growth, most absentees returned and new people began to join us. By the time we met for a review of the trial period, it was already clear that we wouldn’t be able physically to put the two congregations back together in the same meeting again.
However, I want to pick up on a few lessons from this. The first one is the lesson I needed reminding of that morning that God is sovereign and whilst we cannot guarantee that a particular church will remain secure in the same format, we can trust him to look after the proclamation of his Gospel.
Secondly, there is always a risk with change. At the point where you are moving to new ways of doing things, new systems, new organisational structures, new places or new personnel, you go through high danger. Yet, we do make changes. Why? Well the simple reason is this, that the risk or danger of not making the change is greater than the risk of making it. The opportunity of making the change is greater than the risk. There were real risks to the church and its ministries when we launched The 930 Service but the cost of ignoring the need to do something would have been that we would not have been creating the space and the time for people to hear the Good News who needed to.
Thirdly, we can assume that leaders who lead, who set out a vision and urge others to join in are somehow impervious. The reality is often different. Those leaders experience sleepless nights, they worry and sometimes they weep. Yet, again, as I said before, the see that the need outweighs the risk and the cost.
If you are currently weighing up the cost, there is real danger of pain ahead if you make the change but you can also see the cost of not acting, then I would encourage you to go ahead. It is okay to admit your worries to other leaders but don’t lose heart. Keep going.