Archive for July 2015

William Bridges' 3 Stage Model

Summer is a good time to talk about transition, even if your church isn’t going through one. Many of your members will be mid-transition. The important thing to remember is that all forms of major change are similar. Use the table below or think through the plots of movies, books, or Bible stories. 



7 Stages of Change

Bill's summary - there are many other models
The Stages

In a Move,

Job Change,

or Relationship

Building Project



1) Wishful Thinking

Vision of new role

or situation

Vision of more

functional facility


Desire to be Sane/Sober

intrudes on ones thinking

2) One Ray of Hope

Discovering the

means to leave

Finding some


Support offered from

group or counselor

3) Disruption

Discovering reasons 

that you can't leave

Major Issues and

financial shortfalls

Discovering that you are

stuck and can't save


4) Maximum Mess

You choose

not to turn back

People leave,

current functions


You hit bottom,

but continue to live

in unbearable pain

5) Seeking Lost


You find some

continuity between

the old and new

You find better

places to do things

You renew friendships

with those who are


6) Renaming

You stop calling the

old place home

New leadership,

policies, and

programs are


You learn how to

live sane/sober

7) Celebrate

Say goodbye &


Thank those who

helped, all are 

invited to rejoice

You celebrate

anniversaries and

attend meetings


Remember Dag Hammarsköld’s prayer:

For all that has been — thanks.

For all that shall be — YES!

additional author: 
William Bridges
Ephesians 4:1-16

From the prison cell, where he is cut off from the lifeblood of Christian fellowship, Paul speaks with clarity about how church is meant to be. Ephesians 4:1-16 should be read by those nominated to church office, should be responsively chanted at church council meetings, and should be prayerfully kept in mind as we enter our fall reorganizational and vision casting gatherings.


In 4:2, Paul begins by establishing a guideline for Christian behavior. We are not an NFL football team, nor are we Walmart. Out goal is not to win, grow, or make a profit. We are to be the church, which means in every instance to be humble with each other, loving, gentle, striving always for unity and peace. I know of youth group leaders and conflict management consultants who begin their gatherings with putting a set of behavior agreements up on the board. It may be useful to rework this scripture into a statement of behavior that we will hold ourselves to in church leadership.


The thing about behavior in the church, and behavior in our daily lives, is that they are related. People who need to learn better life skills, come to the church for hands on training. People who have applied Christian gentleness to their personal lives are to be promoted and given more respect in their church work. Instead of striving to meet our goals or metrics, we must be working together to create an environment where Christ’s lifestyle is experienced and learned.


The theme of the Ephesians 4 chapter is the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are called by God, and our calling utilizes both situation and our inner strengths. Paul is called to be in prison and to exercise his gift as a writer. We may not always like our calling. We each must honor our own calling with humility. We must also encourage others to live up to their calling.


Whenever talking about the Holy Spirit, we must emphasize the truth, that the gifts exist for the upbuilding of the church. Our personal enjoyment and the status we gain when we do something well, is not the point. The point is the fellowship that we belong to. The point is the church, which Paul finds himself missing, as he writes from prison.

Church life isn't meant to look like Dilbert's meetings
Pentecost 13
What music is being played in Hell?

First let me say that this cartoon gets it wrong. True: bagpipes are hideous when badly played and serve such a narrow range of music that they are the butt of many jokes. Yet when I try to imagine the music that will be played in hell, my closest reference point is to ask, what kind of music was played by the Nazi party during their conquest of the German people? It is unlikely that Satan has the same musical tastes as Hitler, but I think their utilization of music will be similar.


In Nazi hell, the loud speakers carried Richard Wagner’s symphonic celebrations of the German spirit (think Apocalypse Now, note that Wagner died in 1883), Strauss-type marches (Strauss himself parted ways from the Nazis in 1935), and Beethoven, who said that,"strength is the morality of the man who stands out from the rest.” Next time you have the traditional verses contemporary music argument, bring out this list. 


Our choice of music for church services, has to reflect our commitment to diversity and the capacity music has for helping us to understand other cultures. Music Nazis in the church often want to narrow selections to the tastes of the current majority or “what we all know.” In 1933, the German people all knew that their kinfolk wrote the best music. I imagine that in Hell, souls are given headphones and made to hear the music of their childhood played repeatedly.


All forms of music, with the possible exception of Techno, can be used to celebrate ethical behavior, faith, and love. Music can also be used to engender loyalty in false gods, materialism, and xenophobia. Our choices in the church must be made prayerfully and with discernment as to how those who are new to our worship will be effected by our songs.

additional author: 
Cartoonist: S. Gross
Psalm 23

One way to say something different about the familiar Psalm 23, is to list the things that are constant about our relationship with God and give personal examples for each. Then point out that the psalm deals with the scary changeableness of life and its great transitions. This contrast, lulling people into a security with the familiar aspects of their favorite psalm, then hitting them with the harsh realities that demand faith, can be effective, if you don’t show your hand ahead of the big reveal.


The Relational Constants:

The hierarchy of Lord/Servant and Shepherd/Sheep

The provision of God - meeting our needs

Ethical certainty - Rod and Staff…

Eternity - I’ll dwell for ever more…


The Transitional Realities:

Situations change: activity & stress is followed by still waters

Sheep are led through narrow valleys to new grazing lands

Enemies became friends

We transition through death to eternal life


Also see “A German Shepherd Teaches Psalm 23

The sheep left behind think the one under stress is nuts
Pentecost 11
Mark 6:14-29
Herod's Confusion about Jesus

Guilt is a funny thing. Like humor, it depends upon ambiguity. Everyday we do things that are wrong, but we tend to only feel guilty about the ones that have some confusion to them. Remember the story that Jesus tells about the rich man and Lazarus; the dude with a Rolex on his wrist and a Porsche in the drive, walks by the beggar at his door, never feels guilty, and doesn’t realize that he has contributed to Lazarus’ early death by his neglect. The rich man lives, we assume, a very purpose-driven life, with clear goals and no time for soft-headed things like charity. His approach to social ills is unambiguous; what’s this got to do with me?


Where we see great guilt in the Bible is in characters who allow ambiguity to creep into their worldview. This is the primary purpose of preaching. To insert ambiguity into people’s lives. This is the desired outcome of worship, to leave people feeling insecure about their prejudices and assumptions.


So, King David has a heart that has been shaped enough by worship that he falls into a dark ambiguity-driven depression when he is told by the prophet that God has seen what he did with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. So, King Herod, who orders the execution of thousands without loosing a minutes sleep, feels guilty about beheading John. He liked John, even though he couldn’t stomach a thing John said. Many people have the same relationship with Jesus.


What is the role of ambiguity and guilt in your life?

We see the things most clearly that we are confused about
Pentecost 10
Clem led both in the church and in the political process

As we enter into patriotic reflections this weekend, it is good to remember that there are three things that we cannot change; the past, the truth, and other people. The church and her people need to be involved with social change. This involves honoring the past, speaking truth, allowing change to begin within our own walls, and then reaching out to be change agents. The AME Zion church has walked this path. President Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, one of the Charleston martyrs, contains some lines that are helpful and inspiring:


When Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived… 


[The state senate district that he served was] one of the most neglected in America. A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment. A place that needed somebody like Clem. 


His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely.


“Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.”


Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long.


To put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.


[God’s grace] has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves.


For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.


[In America,] we have a deep appreciation of history – we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.

additional author: 
President Obama
AME Zion Church