I am not fond of change for change sake, but I have recognized that it is inevitable, survivable and even profitable when we learn to make it our ally rather than our enemy. I know that I have been conditioned by our culture to “arrive”. In other words, I have been conditioned to plant myself somewhere, build a home, put down roots and enjoy the stability of knowing that I am settled. There is nothing wrong with that reality. In fact it is a part of the American Dream. The problem for me is when I allow my mindset to be one of a permanent resident. Let me explain. As a follower of Jesus, I have embarked on a journey full of change. The very invitation to “Follow Me” implies movement and change. This is the point of contention between our culture and His. We want to arrive and He is calling us to keep moving towards His kingdom. This often leads to frustration, insecurity and even disobedience. When we have the mindset of a permanent resident we attach worth, identity and status to our location and our stuff. If we are asked to move on we feel threatened and in fear we either hide or resist. When we cannot prevent the change we often resent those involved in making us change, including the Lord. We become victims of Nostalgia and do not enjoy the benefit of change.
Hebrews 11:8-10 gives us some insight into the mindset that allows us not only to survive the transitions of life, but to actually thrive in them. Abraham did two things that I believe are the key to thriving in transition. First, He chose to live in a tent rather than build a permanent residence. Dwelling in tents kept him flexible, mobile and reliable. This allowed him to keep his reality as a man on a journey in the land with the understanding that there was something better for him to pursue. He is considered to be the Father of Faith and referred to as the “Friend of God”. He was able to release things when necessary and fight for people that he valued. When we fight for things and release people we need to examine our hearts and minds.
There is a second thing that is evident in Abraham’s life that was key to his thriving in transition. Everywhere he pitched his tent he also built an altar. Worship was central to his faith. It was a priority for him to know that no matter where he was he could meet with God, hear His voice and be strengthened in the journey. The reality of the promise of Jesus to be with us always is realized in the place of worship. Regardless of where you find yourself on this journey, you can meet with God. Dwelling in tents alone will not lead to thriving in transition. We must also set the priority of worshiping where we are. The one place that Abraham did not do this was Egypt. It is also where he lied and endangered his wife. It was a disaster that nearly destroyed him and his destiny. Upon leaving Egypt with the awareness of his failure he returned to the place he had built an altar and knew the voice of the Lord. Be encouraged. When we miss it on this journey, we can return to the place of worship and find restoration, forgiveness and healing.
Is it necessary for all of us to abandon our homes and become nomads in order to know His kingdom. Yes and No. It is primarily a matter of the heart and mind. Dwelling in tents and building altars will preserve us where we are and empower us when it is time for change. Many times the change is inward, but sometimes it is an outward one that reveals where we are internally. Throughout our ministry the Lord has driven home this reality to me. Many of our posts required portable sound systems and equipment. Setting up and tearing down each week has been something we are very familiar with. I am revisiting this reality as I embrace the change that we are in the midst of implementing. After 5 wonderful years in Northwest AR as the Senior Pastor of NorthGate Church, we are moving back to Dallas/Ft. Worth. This means we are packing and making choices about what we will take with us and what we will leave behind. We are determined to release things and value relationships on this journey while choosing the mindset of tents and altars. We believe that this enables us to do more than just survive the transition. We intend to thrive!
Here are some questions I ask myself to check my heart on this journey:
1. Is fear of change causing me to hide from God?
2. Is fear of change fueling resistance to following Him?
3. Am I releasing people and fighting for stuff?
4. Is my sense of worth, identity and status threatened by change of venue or location?
5. Have I built an altar today?