When Saints Seem Like Sinners, You Can Bet There’s a Change Coming

Following are excerpts from an article a friend wrote for Relevant Magazine. Michael Hidalgo is lead pastor/teacher of Denver Community Church and author of Unlost: Being Found by the One We Are Looking For, and Changing Faith: Doubts and Choices about an Unchanging God.

The highest vision of most churches is “safe.” We focus on making church predictable, comfy, typically full of people who think and live as we do. But, from time to time, God wants things to change, which, for whatever reason, means trouble, which won’t happen without troublemakers.

Troublemakers are the people who help God’s church make the changes He wants. They’re folks who have nothing to lose, and a clear vision of where things need to go. But because change can be so painful, these troublemaking servants of the Lord are often seen as “sinners.”

Change may be the only constant, but it is a terrifying idea for many. Many of us resist change, and are just fine with the way things are. Something in us knows change is a form of loss, and loss is painful. And change brings something else that few people like, the unknown.

When things stay the same, life is comfortable, predictable and familiar. And when that is threatened we become uncomfortable, uncertain and confused. We often find ourselves reacting against change, and we think of those leading change as troublemakers.

The question for us would-be saints trying hard to not be sinners is, “How can we get on board with God when all He seems to want is trouble?” If we look at the lives of people who have caused trouble/change for God, four things stand out.

#1: Sacrifice

Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest in Burma for 15 years. Still, her unflagging efforts for human rights, hope for democracy in Burma and peaceful resistance against an oppressive regime could not be stopped. She is still willing to speak out for what is right and needed change, and is willing to give up everything, to see it happen.

Change-makers have such a clear vision of what’s coming next that they’re willing to give everything for it. Their voices endure, they don’t fade out into oblivion. They’re not interested in self-promotion or expecting to get something from their message. They’ve simply aligned themselves with the will and heart of God and are willing to give anything to see it to fruition.

#2: What Vision is and What it Isn’t

Troublemakers are different—they talk about what they are for. It means having the audacity to dream about what could be and painting a compelling picture of a preferred future. This does not mean disrespecting where we are or where we have been. Rather we can honor the past and present as we look ahead and we speak of what can be and will be with great hope.

Today we hear a lot of cynicism, what’s wrong with the world, critiques – a mountain of negativity. Change-makers are visionaries, and their visions are always positive, clear, compelling pictures of what might be if we manage to align our collective trajectories with God’s.

#3: Bigger than You

This is what good troublemakers do. Their vision, dreams and hopes are not centered on themselves. Rather, their greatest desires are focused on change that will be good for everyone. Rarely do you hear them promoting themselves, but only talking about a cause, a vision, or, in the case of Dr. King, a dream.

troublemakers in the church

#4: Authority

A good troublemaker is one who equips, empowers and mobilizes others. They do this because they are fully aware there is no way needed change will come to bear on the strength of one person. They know that when others understand and live out the vision, it will only grow and become greater—and the change that is needed becomes inevitable.

Because their vision is so compelling, and so huge, change-makers know that people are going to have join them, and they’re not afraid to ask for, most of the times demand, help.

And it’s here that we get into one of the most foul words in the American Christian lexicon – authority. Our Western culture, both inside and outside of the church, has come to loathe the idea that any one person has the right to tell another what to do. But this is the mark of a holy troublemaker – wielding the authority that attends their vision is part and parcel to get the job done.

There’s tons of trouble in the church today, and plenty of troublemakers to be sure. There are some who play on the fears and frustrations of others to promote themselves. Some passionately seek to preserve the status quo at any cost. In neither of these scenarios will you find a compelling vision, a willingness to sacrifice everything, or an end result who’s benefit extends far beyond the church.

Photo by Michael Weidner on Unsplash

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