Transition and change are two different things

Have you noticed that change is constant? Some changes are much bigger than others, more significant, but change is almost constant. I think that when we talk about change though, we’re more talking about significant ones that require recalibration or adjustment, or else we find ourselves in friction against a new path. The recalibration or adjustment that we have to do is transition. Change is external, transition is internal. Some people embrace change in a way of novelty and then they reject it or resist it later because they have not transitioned.

In Alan Roxburgh’s book, The Sky is Falling: Leaders Lost in Transition, he has a five phase model that describes the process of change:

  1. Stability
  2. Discontinuity
  3. Disembedding
  4. Transition
  5. Reformation

Len Hjalmarson has a great review here of The Sky is falling, and these are Len’s words on Roxburgh’s five phases:

1. Systems seek stability. One of the ways they accomplish this is by forming traditions and standardizing roles. Change during stable phases of cultural life is marked by gradual and manageable change. The role of leadership in these phases is well understood.

2. When stable phases shade into instability, or discontinuity, patterns emerge that alter the way the world works. Leadership roles generally fail to change much, however, instead trying to respond to discontinuity with known skills, failing to question fundamental frameworks, leading inevitably to burnout as leaders try harder.

3. Discontinuity increases until the power of tradition can no longer withstand the forces of instability. Relational alliances shift; new networks grow up; power struggles and blame shifting ensue as the system breaks down. This disembedding is painful and necessary, both local and cultural. Roxburgh notes that it is in this phase that many break with the past, leading to further disorientation. Leaders in this phase often revert to old skills which cannot enable a meaningful engagement with the new context.

4. When stability, predictability and control are gone the transition phase has arrived. (Interesting that this transition is used in my wife’s profession to describe the fearful sense of loss of control moments before birth). One common response is pragmatic.. to search for what is working, here or elsewhere. At a similar point Israel wanted to return to Egypt.. but there is no going back. This is a painful and potentially creative time.

5. “Reformation happens as the church has negotiated the reinventing of its life through disembedding, discontinuity, and transition and begins to approach a new period of recreating transition and finding fresh stability.” (56) This requires a rediscovery and reframing of the church’s original story. “A new language, a new set of roles, and a new set of rules have emerged´┐Ż”

Roxburgh argues that the shift from transition to reformation is still a long way ahead. Meanwhile, we will continue to cycle back and forth in the transition phase. Leadership in this time will require “living in the midst of the tension between reentering the stories and traditions of our past and experimenting in ways that discern the emergent forms of God’s activity.” (58)

As in the five stages of death and dying by Dr. Kubler-Ross, these stages age not linear; we can skip around and cycle back and forth and simultaneously through various phases.

I find this model helpful in understanding the internal “discombobulation” that we feel when we go through change and internal transition is called for. I think that number three, disembedding, is a very powerful concept. People that try to move forward with change, but who have embedded ways of doing and thinking are very unhappy people. The Exodus and wilderness time, followed by the conquest are such powerful metaphors for this. As Paul said, “these things happened as examples (models)”. (1. Cor. 10:6)


Joshua 2:1-3
Go, look over the land.

Reconnoiter means to (on line dictionaries say):

  • scout: explore, often with the goal of finding something or somebody.
  • To make a preliminary inspection of, especially in order to gather military information.
  • To examine or survey (land, enemy troops, etc), especially with a view to military operations etc. Often shortened to recce.
  • Thesaurus: investigate, examine, scrutinize, explore, probe, survey, inspect, patrol, scout.

Coming home

He got right up and went home to his father.
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him.
His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.
Luke 15:20

It was twenty years ago now, when I began coming home as a prodigal son. I was raised in the church and had a personal relationship with God in my childhood. After I turned thirteen sometime, I had an experience where God asked me to let Him be Lord of my life. This was 1973 or 1974 and in our Evangelical church, especially as a child, I never heard about salvation versus Lordship. But in that experience, as a thirteen year old, I knew what God meant because I had a vision of Him taking the steering wheel of my life. Unfortunately, I did not say yes and God heard me. From that day, I lost my intimate walk with the Lord and began my rebellion.

By late 1985 and early 1986, God was wooing me. I was trying to read the Bible but couldn’t understand it really and I tried to pray and could really only continue to ask for protection on the freeways and a few other small things, but could not really connect at all. But also, during this time, I began to go back to various churches with friends. They would have these simple praise songs at a Calvary chapel I visited and the songs made me cry and cry.
By May of 1986, I was on the road to coming home. I had a long, dry repentance; but I was drawn very strongly. I took these long walks, pondering my life and where I had gone wrong. My spiritual hunger kept increasing and on Father’s Day of 1987 I finally found a church that I would call home for the next twelve years. Someone was also praying for me during this time and said that they would just cry. I later realized that perhaps God was crying over me- broken hearted. I later realized that Jesus parable of the two sons was about me and Father God as well.
There is a revelation here when Jesus says that while the son was still a long way off, the father saw him. He was hoping and waiting. Perhaps scanning the horizon whenever he was outdoors. Then one day, there his son was, and the father ran to meet him. Very awesome. The love of God. Have you experienced it?

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