Friday, March 19, 2010

In the Diner

It’s different in here this morning.

The radio is off and the silence is deafening in an eerie sort of way. It’s not a bad thing necessarily. It’s just different. I can hear the juice machine like a small waterfall. I can hear the voices back by the kitchen. I can hear the hum of the compressor in the refrigerator. This is the first time in all the years I have been coming here that I recall the radio being off.

To make it worse, I got here late and someone was in my booth. I had to sit in another booth (until he left and I could move back to mine).

And on top of that I have a different waitress. I know her well. She normally works the afternoon shift. I actually had to order this morning. Usually I order with “Yes,” because it’s the response to “The usual this morning?”  I couldn’t even just say “the usual,” because she doesn’t know what that is. She even brought me cream. I haven’t cream in coffee in close to twelve years probably.

And so now I am thinking about tradition, and how uncomfortable it is to change things.

It reminds me that most people in our churches aren’t traditionalists for theological reasons (whether that’s right or wrong is another issue). They are traditionalists for comfort reasons.

When we change something and they don’t like it, they often have no reason other than “It’s just not the way we do things.” What they mean is “We have always done it another way.” They don’t have a verse for it. They are not principle conservatives. They are just comfortable.

How do we address this kind of traditionalism in our churches?

I think it must be by careful and consistent teaching, by gradual change where possible, and by just changing things when the time comes. If you don’t teach you will create confusion and discontent. If you change too fast you will create anger and resentment. If you wait until everyone agrees, you will never do it. People will not naturally leave comfort until they see a need for it, or until they are forced, or both.

So we as leaders have to know why we are doing things—either why we are maintaining traditions or why we are changing them.

We have to communicate why we are doing things. Remember, a leader’s most powerful public tool is his teaching ministry. In the NT, teaching is the primary means of leadership, from Jesus right on through the apostles. That hasn’t changed. When you want someone to do something, you have to convince them to do that.

And sometimes, it’s good just to change for no reason. Sometimes. Not always. But sometimes.

So I changed today. I came in almost an hour later than normal. I sat in a different booth (for about fifteen minutes). And I am either enjoying or enduring the silence—I’m not sure which yet.


Mark Ward said...

"My booth." Interesting...

Anonymous said...

Sometime changing to a different diner for one day every now and then is an even better thing. Kinda like sending your folks to the mission field on a missions trip every once in a while. It does one good to get your mind to understand what you do or don't have where you live, because of the experience.

And, I wonder how many people know when you don't show up at the diner when you normally would have.