Yesterday I read an article on the idea of how people respond to pain – most people try to avoid it. Here’s the part that caught my attention:
Most people are driven by the avoidance of pain, not out of achieving their true desires.
Rarely does a person decide to act from their true desires, unaffected by the fear or rejection or looking stupid. Fear can dominate your life, if you let it. As a result, most people more often work out of desperation, running away from pain instead of focusing progress towards a goal.
The ordinary decision is to remain like this — to not take the steps and action to change from ordinary to extraordinary. This is fine, not everyone needs to work hard to become an extraordinary version of themselves. Not everyone wants this life.
But if you’re not satisfied with living a life characterized by anxiety, pain-avoidance, and stress, it’s time to take the actions necessary to upgrade.
What struck me was that this doesn’t just apply to individuals, but to churches as well.
Churches are facing difficult times and have been for a couple of decades. There are decreases in membership, attendance, participation, and money to fund ministry. Changes are necessary if churches are going to adapt and not only survive, but thrive. And those changes are often painful. The pain comes from doing something a different and unfamiliar way. There is the pain of making a mistake or error that could be costly. There is the pain of a belief of failure – the idea that change automatically means that what was being done is a failure, and by default, those doing it are too.
Usually what happens when a change is made – there are some who will resist, raising their voice in opposition. Churches are made up of people and if the article is true, which I think it is, most people are driven by the avoidance of pain. And so what often happens is that the change is rescinded to avoid the pain of conflict.
The problem with this is that the church is ignoring the longer term pain – a slow, painful death. Living organisms and organizations change. And those changes are painful. And so we have to choose which pain we will deal with and adapt from – the pain of maintaining the status quo or the pain of change.
Behind all that is the belief about the pain of failure. Change doesn’t automatically mean that what was done, and worked, is a failure now. All it means is that what was done, and worked before, no longer works – circumstances have changed and adaptions to those changes are necessary for survival and thriving. Organisms that adapt to changes in their environment survive and have the potential to thrive. I believe that churches should do the same thing.