For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing a series of articles looking back at my 60 years of walking with Jesus and describing some of the faith and ministry lessons I’ve learned along the way.
The world has changed greatly in the 42 years since I started Saddleback. When we held our first service in the spring of 1980, cell phones didn’t exist. We didn’t have the Internet. No one had a personal video camera. Only a handful of people had personal computers.
I remember we bought three computers for 10,000 dollars in the first few years of Saddleback. I lost three leaders in the church over it. They called the purchase a waste and said we’d never use three computers. But times have changed.
Change is inevitable. You don’t have to like change, but you can’t stop it. The world will continue to change every day. You can count on that.
You can resent or resist change. Or you can use it for your growth and God’s glory. The choice is yours.
But here’s what I’ve learned in my 60 years of walking with Jesus: You can’t grow without change, and you can’t have change without loss. Why? Because in growth, you must let go of the old to grab onto the new. There’s no loss without pain, and there’s no pain without grief.
And you simply can’t grow without pain and grief in your life.
Just like anyone else, as we’ve experienced change at Saddleback, I’ve gone through a variety of emotions.
I encourage you to not be a prisoner to all of your emotions as you’re going through change. For example, here’s how you can navigate two very common emotions during change and use them to help you grow.
I’ve never doubted God, but I have doubted myself. I’ve wondered if I was the right pastor to lead Saddleback. At times, I was certain that God could find someone better. I’ve wondered whether I really heard God when he called me. All of those doubts are normal.
About a decade into leading Saddleback, I discovered an important principle: Doubt your doubts, and believe your beliefs. We get into trouble because we do the opposite. We believe our doubts, and we doubt our beliefs. That’s foolish. Beliefs are meant to be believed. Doubts are meant to be doubted.
All kinds of fears come with change. I’ve been scared about each major decision we’ve made at Saddleback. But we moved forward anyway because I wouldn’t let fear stop me from doing what God has called our church to do. We did the right thing even when we were scared to death.
Fear will keep you in a self-imposed prison. Don’t ever argue with your fear. It doesn’t work, because fear is not rational. You can’t use logic to get away from fear. The only way to deal with fear is to move against it. You must do what you fear the most.
Saddleback’s history is all about doing things we were scared to do because we knew they were right. When you do what’s right, even when you’re scared, you are being courageous.
Never make decisions based upon the emotions that come with change. Emotions, by their definition, are temporary. Every single emotion, whether good or bad, won’t last long. You don’t want to make permanent decisions based on fleeting emotions.
Plus, emotions lie to us all the time. They aren’t always honest. In our culture today, we’ve made our emotions our idol. What God says about you and your situation is much more important than what your emotions are saying. Feelings come from many sources—and not all of them are good.
You’ll face change for the rest of your ministry and life. Some changes you may like. Others you may not. The longer you serve, the more change you’ll see.
But all change can help you grow. This world may change rapidly, but God never does.
As you lean on the unchanging presence of God in your life, he’ll help you grow.