By Todd Outcalt
Most pastors can attest that people in their congregations don't like change. This is evidenced every Sunday morning, as we witness the majority of people sitting in the same chair or pew location week after week. Most of us could take attendance with just a cursory glance from the pulpit - and I often know which families are absent in a given week by simply looking at the vacant slots in the sanctuary.
Some years ago, I remember asking members of a congregation to move to a different location for the sermon. I asked everyone to stand up and switch places. Some, who normally sat on the back row, moved to the front. One gentleman came up into the chancel and sat down behind the pulpit. A few of the youth moved away from their parents and sat in the choir loft.
Then I offered a sermon about change and the value of seeing the world and our own lives through new perspectives. Faith, indeed, is a call to embrace the unfamiliar and the unknown. We don't walk by sight, but by faith, the writer of Hebrews reminds us.
At the end of the sermon that Sunday, one fellow came up to me and said he had sat in a new place that morning to listen to the message - the women's restroom. "I didn't know the ladies restroom had pink walls," he said. "Actually, it was kind of soothing. Your message came along real fine in there!"
At our annual conference session this spring, I found myself inhabiting the same area of the auditorium as usual. I sat in the same place and listened to the same voices. But I also heard something different this year - a new perspective that was evidenced as we stepped out in faith and voted to imagine a new Indiana Annual Conference together.
As many pointed out on both sides of the debate - we have no idea where this movement is taking us. There are so many unanswered questions. There are few easy answers. We weren't sure where to stand.
But then, isn't that what faith in Christ always challenges us to do?
"Rise, take up your mat and walk!"
"Go your way - your faith has made you whole."
"Go into all the world."
It's a big step. Always. We just have to be willing to step out of the pew.
Todd Outcalt serves as the senior pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg, Ind.