In the book Immunity to Change, Harvard professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey explain why so few people follow through on the resolutions they make for the new year. In the same pages, the authors offer step-by-step guidance on how people can be successful in making the kinds of changes they say they want to make.

The culprit is the inability to think complex thoughts. Most people default to comforting habits and modes of thinking and are, according to the authors, incapable of changing. Immunity to disease is a good thing but we also build up defenses (immunities) to change. Making dramatic shifts in one’s behavior (not smoking, eating less, exercising more) involves breaking out of the tried-and-true and acting in ways harder to think about let alone act on.

Kegan and Lahey say that a plan of action based on intentional self-reflection (looking at ourselves without rose-colored glasses) provides clarity and a realistic assessment of who we are. In order to make the change we wish, we must create a plan of action that breaks the mode of “comfort thinking” and begin new behaviors that get us where we want to be. Easy solutions cannot solve complex problems.

Most people default to comforting habits

My work with you could be a parallel of this book. Congregations (even very successful ones) get stuck and become too comfortable which can lead to lack of vision, zeal for mission, etc. Congregational traditions (even really nice ones) can thwart doing new things. From Day One, I said I’d lead change so you might do things differently in the hopes you would catch a new vision of being God’s church in Elkin. I was recently told that about 1/3 of sermons seemed to be about change. (“That’s all,” I thought.) A lot of my work, I believe, has been fruitful and (most of) you have gone along for the ride.

A new phase on transitional work now begins. During January and February, you will begin a self-study and create a new mission statement. This mission statement will state what you believe God is calling you to do. Through small group conversations led by the Ruling Elders, you will reflect on your assets (spiritual, financial, human) and create a plan that will set the stage for growth and a new phase of leadership. After this, a search committee can be elected. Let me repeat: Only AFTER a self-study is completed and approved by the Council can a search committee be elected. You can’t go into the future if you don’t know how you’ll get there!

In January, I’ll pay particular attention in my sermons on how this self-study will take place and what it means for the congregation. God wants every church to be blessed and be a blessing to others. Let’s awaken to the epiphany of God’s light and love in and through this congregation.