That’s one of the nicer things we call moving. Our household’s recent move has been a journey into disorganization, disorientation and general discord. A genuine necessary evil.
More than once during recent weeks, we vowed to never move again – all the while knowing that it is inevitable. We have hauled more boxes of unnecessary items to donation sites than I would have imagined. How did we accumulate so much junk?
We have lost items we can’t live without and found items we thought we had lost in previous moves. We have newfound appreciation for those who work for moving companies and load and unload in the oppressively hot and humid conditions of the South.
Our upheaval, of course, has been an opportunity as well as an endurance challenge. We’ve had the opportunity to decide what really matters when it comes to housing. We’ve had to choose what to keep and what to throw or give away. We’ve been convicted about the need to live more simply and to be more focused on people than things. We’ve been reminded of the value and power of community and friendship. We’ve had to get clear about God’s leadership and learn to trust in him anew.
During our moving saga, I’ve given thought to what moving means to a local church. The local church is notorious for resisting moving. I don’t mean physical movement from one site to another, but movement in attitudes or movement toward a kingdom vision or movements of God’s Spirit. Some days it seems that new things only happen outside the property lines of established churches. Only later do local churches respond to the opportunity to move from what was to what could be.
Our experiences with moving have reminded me how resistance to movement of any kind can take hold and hold sway. Change can become the enemy when we focus on the inconvenience rather than the opportunities. Our first response to possible movement is, “What will this mean to me?” We don’t start off asking “What does God want?” or “What might this mean to the Kingdom?” Our starting point is, “What does possible movement mean for me?”
As a pastor who has moved from three pulpits to other opportunities, I was always disheartened to realize that this was the essential question most people met me with when they heard I was leaving. Seldom did I hear anyone initially celebrate God’s providential leadership or express trust that I might actually have heard a call and that responding was in everyone’s best interest.
Most people eventually got to such a point, but that first response is instructive. We process potential change and movement through the lens of self-interest. When talk of moving arises, we think first of the discord and upheaval that we may endure and often respond with resistance.
Thank God for moving, however. Do you realize that the essential metaphor for God’s calling of his people in both the Old and New Testaments is movement? It was God’s children enslaved in Egypt who heard the call to rise up and move out from the known for the unknown Promised Land. Thus began a generation-long, complicated, history-changing move that puts our moving woes into proper perspective.
Jesus begins his ministry by inviting potential disciples to “come and follow me.” Movement is the order of his new day, and the pages of the New Testament record encounter after encounter in which he invites men and women to move from where and who they are and discover a world of abundant life they cannot imagine. Paul’s journeys are about movement and change and learning and discomfort. If you are not comfortable with movement and change, the Bible is not for you.
We all have our moving woes to recount and commiserate over. What we also have is the disguised gift that moving is and the promise it holds. God is still in the business of calling his people to move from where they are to where he intends them to be.
It is a journey worth all the inconveniences and impositions, for it is a journey to the life we can only find in him. Thanks be to God for moving trucks, inconveniences and disruption – and the promise they hold.
Bill Wilson is president of the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Bill Wilson is president of the Center for Healthy Churches (CHC) housed at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.