We are moving. Yes, for the fourth time in five years we are moving. It’s not far. Only six and a half blocks. But we are still moving. In fact, I am writing this morning so that I don’t have to pack. Did I mention how much I loathe moving?
Lest you think we have trouble settling in one place, let me explain these four moves in five years. After thirteen years (with a brief excursion to north Alabama) of living in one house in Talladega, Alabama, we moved to Louisville, Mississippi in 2014 just a month or so after a tornado destroyed dozens of homes. Needless to say, available housing was at a premium so we moved into an AirBNB and then into a small rental house while we looked for a permanent residence. Those were moves one and two. Then we moved into the house that has been our home for the past four years. Believing we would be here into retirement, we put down roots. We unpacked boxes. And we hung pictures. We moved in.
The Need to Feel Settled
I grew up in a very settled environment. I lived in the same town from birth to college. And I only moved once. To a house that was just one street over. I didn’t even have to find new friends. The only time I changed schools was when I went from elementary school to seventh grade. And from seventh grade to junior high. And from junior high to high school. I went to the same church until I left for college. My dad never changed jobs. My life was the very definition of settled.
We long for that kind of stability. We long to be settled. Churches do as well. They resist change. They hold on to the familiar no matter the cost. I get it. I understand. The world is not stable. The world is not settled. Change is constant. And it is rapid. I recently bought a new iPhone that is already out of date. In this constantly moving world we often feel unsettled. We can’t do anything about the world. But we feel we can control home and church.
We Shall Not Be Moved
Over the past thirty years I have visited more than a hundred churches. And like many church consultants, I often ask the question, “What year is it?” As Lyle Schaller observed, “One of the most frequent signs of a dysfunctional church is denial, and one common expression of denial is the hope that next year will closely resemble 1955.” We will not move. And we will not change. We will hold on to the past. It makes us comfortable. Settled. Secure.
I was reminded of this truth last week as I read a blogpost from Susan Lafferty. Susan is the wife of Todd Lafferty, the newly elected Executive Vice-President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. In this post, Susan reflected upon their impending move from Birmingham to Richmond. As she contemplated another change of “permanent address,” God spoke to her through Isaiah 33:5-6.
The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and He will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; for the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.
Wherever He Leads
We preacher-types have a saying, “You can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are.” There is truth in the statement. We see it throughout the Bible. Abram left his home to follow God to a land that God would show him. Israel left Egypt to follow God out of Egypt and back to the same land. Jesus called the Disciples to leave everything and follow him. The life of a follower is somewhat unsettled by nature. We are called to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Our security is not in being settled. It is in Jesus.
Letting Go of the Past
Our security is not in the past, either. Earlier this week I packed up the bedrooms that we have assigned to Emily and Robert. I say assigned because they have never lived in this house. They have visited here many times with their families. And their rooms have some of their stuff. As I packed I relived memories. Sweet memories. There were tee shirts from their high school and college football, soccer and cheerleading days. Pictures of them from childhood. Even a few old toys. Sweet memories. And while I love those memories, I love where Emily and Robert are today even more. They are adults. Emily is a wife and mom. Robert is a husband and father. They both love Jesus and are leading their families to love him, too. I love the past. But I love the present even more.
I wish more of our churches could cherish the memories of their past while they embrace the reality of the present. The Lord wants to do so much through our churches. And he calls us to follow him into the future. That means being willing to move today.
It seems that moving is just a part of life for us. We unpack for a while. Then we pack it back up. We discard what we don’t need for the rest of the journey. And we just keep moving. Following Jesus. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’ve got some boxes to pack. We are moving, after all.
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