William Bridges, a guru on helping organizations and businesses make transitions and shifts says that what most people resist is not change, but transition. And yet those words are used almost interchangeably when they do not mean the same thing. (William Bridges, The Way of Transition, Cambridge, MA: DaCapo Books, 2001.)
Change is a situational shift. Getting a new job is a change, and so is getting a promotion or losing your job. Moving to a different house is a change, and so is remodeling it or losing it in a fire. Having a new child is a change for everyone in the family, including the new baby who was comfortably afloat in mommy’s tummy until she was pushed out. And, of course, losing a loved one is a change—a huge one.
Transition, on the other hand, is the process of letting go of the way things used to be and then taking hold of the way they will become. In between the letting go and the taking hold again there is a chaotic but potentially creative wilderness period where things aren’t the old way, but aren’t really a new way yet either. Transition is the way that we all come to terms with change. Without transition, a change is mechanical, superficial and empty and we often end up back where we started. In spite of the new boss, house or baby, nothing is really different. Transitions can be scary and anxiety producing or filled with hope and optimism depending upon your attitude.
While my time with you will not be permanent, it will be a transition. You’ll be exposed to a different style of preaching and worship leadership, to a different way of doing ministry. Beginning in the fall, we’re going to explore important questions like “Who are we? What are our core values? What’s unique and distinctive about FBC?” “Who is our neighbor? What are the hopes and hurts in Wakefield and beyond where we can minister?” and, lastly “What is God calling us to do and to be? What is our mission in bringing about some portion of God’s reign to our corner of the world?”
Remember, some of God’s best work is done during times of transition. Think of the Israelites learning their true identity as God’s covenant people while in the desert. Or think of Jesus’ getting clarity on his call while in the Judean wilderness. On our journey toward the resurrection, during transition times, we discover our true selves. For many it is a fearful experience of testing, but one that is moderated by a special grace: we make this journey together, with this body of believers at the First Baptist Church, with the whole Christian church on earth, and we follow the One who has already completed the course.