Sometimes in life we come to a crossroads. We know it is time for a change. We know we want something more or something different. We know what we have been doing has not been working for whatever reason. I was listening to a podcast this morning, and the host was talking about a situation where a friend was stuck in some old patterns, and trying to change them was going to be very hard and uncomfortable—and while the friend didn’t like the life he or she had, there was resistance when it came to working to change. The statement made back was, “All you’ve got is time, and it is already painful, so why not do the work and get a life that can be incredibly better.”
For most of my life, I was overweight. I was not one of those people who embraced my body as big and beautiful. I hated being overweight. I hated looking at weight limits on rides at amusement parks. I hated sitting in the middle seat in an airplane and feeling like I took up too much room. I hated shopping in the plus-size department. Each and every day, I was self-conscious about my size and so wanted it to be different. And yet, as much as I hated it, I couldn’t seem to do anything about it. I was stuck. I would buy diet books; in fact, I had quite the collection. I would dabble. But I never really wanted to do the work that was required to get the change I desired.
Then one day I hit a crossroads. I was sitting in my doctor’s office, and he said, “You are on the border of becoming diabetic. If you lose 30 pounds, you can prevent that from happening.” I had a decision to make. Something clicked in me that day. I had to stop kidding myself. I knew I didn’t like being overweight, but until then, I had thought: I am active and energetic, so I won’t have the health-related issues that being overweight can cause. Yeah, right! I was not going to be the exception to the rule, and the pain quotient was about to increase. What was the life I wanted for myself? If I really wanted it, it meant radical changes.
That day, I went all in. I joined Weight Watchers and learned how to eat differently. I joined a gym and committed to twice-a-week personal training sessions. I created completely new practices in my life. I found friends who could be encouragers on the journey. Four years later, I am back in my doctor’s office, and the words I hear are, “You changed the trajectory of your life.” Wow! Change is possible.
If you hang around me these days, you will hear me talking about going “all in” as a church. I believe we are at a crossroads as an annual conference. As I look at our numbers, my sense is that if we don’t make a significant turn within the next five years, the future is going to be a church radically diminished in size, substance, and impact. As annual conference staff and leaders, we see the landscape. And we have been working at this—we have invested deeply in congregational revitalization efforts such as the Healthy Church Initiative and Missional Journey. We are starting new churches. There is fruit from those efforts, and we are aiming in the right direction, but I don’t know if it is enough. I think there is more we need to do and can do, and it has to do with the development of leaders. But investing the way we need to will require a major realignment of resources and strategic investments of time, staff, and focus. So we have a choice. We can presume our demise and scale back our efforts, deeming change futile, or we can go all in.
I believe that God is not done with the church. I believe the world desperately needs communities of people who are intentionally seeking to love one another, live in peace, and work for good in the world. I believe that the way of life we find in Christ is the best way to live. So I want to do whatever it takes for us to be this kind of church for the world, not just today, but for future generations.
When you come to annual conference session this May, you are going to be asked to make some critical decisions that force us to choose: Do we want to go all in? What do we believe is possible and what do we want for our life together? I know from personal experience that you can change the trajectory of your life. I also know that the church belongs to God, and with God all things are possible. So, my friends: Are we willing to go all in for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of our life? I am. I hope you are too.
Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church