A few years ago, a column I wrote for my church in Little Rock was picked up by ethicsdaily.com, the e-newsletter of the Baptist Center for Ethics. In that piece, I admitted to my reluctance to upgrade my computer operating system from Windows 7 to the newer version 10. I used it as an analogy for congregational leadership, as well as the manner in which Jesus related to his disciples. My friend John Tyler, who lives in St. Louis, responded with the following:
Good article, Randy! Several observations: The decision to upgrade is usually made by comparing the benefits with the agony of re-learning the new system. Will it enable me to do what I want to do but can’t do now? Will it enable me to do what I’m doing now better or easier or quicker? Are these identified benefits worth the agony I’ll suffer as I learn the new system and am confused by it? One problem with making changes in church is that the benefits that are worth the effort are not explained well, if at all, and the change agents (pastor, committee head, etc.) had better have compelling benefits to share in a compelling manner so that people believe the promised benefits will actually occur rather than be hollow promises. (Of course, if the pain of staying where you are now becomes great enough, then you’re willing to take riskier chances.) The problem often is, “I hear those benefits you promise, but they aren’t things I want.” Or “I simply don’t believe those things you promise, good as they are, will occur with the change that I know will disrupt my life.” This is why I haven’t upgraded to Windows 10… yet. I’ve asked people who have what benefits they’ve identified. Thus far, I’ve gotten blank stares from people who use a computer to do fairly basic tasks as I do. The benefits simply aren’t there (for them) that are worth the trouble of upgrading to Windows 10. When Windows 7 is no longer supported, then we’ll all be “forced” to upgrade. The main benefit then will be that our operating system will keep running and have security updates, a benefit no longer available to us if we stick with Windows 7.
To use John’s words, there is always “agony” involved in learning a new system. There is a sense in which the way churches do ministry is moving to a new system of operation, a new paradigm for doing our work, forced upon us by a changing world, not the least of which has been our current pandemic. It’s not that we have wanted to “do church” as we find ourselves doing it these days, but the reality of today’s situation has thrust it upon us. What will come from it? Perhaps this question is worth asking as we begin to wind down our transition process.
So this is what I encourage you to do… Go back and read John’s message again, but this time do not relate it to the Windows operating system. Think of it solely in terms of our church, of where and what we are right now, and of what we hope to be, going forward. Kind of puts a different perspective on it, doesn’t it?