Maybe you saw this brilliant video by MaryAnn McKibben Dana back in 2011. It comes to mind often, especially as I talk with church leaders who don’t want their church to die, but they don’t know how to help their church live.
When I explain what it will take to get to new life, they often look like they might just choose death. (Note: This is not a bad thing if we are resurrection people.)
It takes enormous courage, energy, person-power, commitment, and faith to transition a congregation. And yes, it’s a lot like like – most specifically – Transitional Labor (i.e. giving birth to a brand new person.)
What To Expect When You’re Expecting puts it this way:
“Phase 3: Transitional (Advanced) Labor
During transitional labor, the last, most intensive, and fortunately the shortest of the phases of labor, your cervix will dilate from seven to its final ten centimeters. Contractions are very strong at this point . . . with intense peaks. Because they’re spaced only about two or three minutes apart, it may seem as though you barely get to relax before the next contraction begins. During transition, you’re likely to feel strong pressure in the lower back and rectum, nausea, fatigue, tightness in the throat and chest area, shakiness, chills, or sweats (or alternating between them).”
Transitioning a church is something like this, at least figuratively. It’s messy and exhausting. The only thing getting us through the process is the promise that at the end, there will be New Life. We don’t know what this New Life will look like and we can’t control the tastes, needs, hopes, and quirks of this New Life. All we can do is love it.
But it hurts like crazy.
Image source here.