Much of the content of the recent Diocese of BC Clergy Conference was built around John Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change (

The first of Kotter’s 8 steps is:

Create a sense of urgency

Merriam-Webster defines urgency as “the quality or state of requiring immediate action or attention.” It is a curious idea that there should be any need to “create a sense of urgency.” A situation is either urgent or it is not urgent. If a situation requires “immediate action or attention”, the situation may need to be pointed out to those who are unaware, but no one needs to “create a sense of urgency.”

When your house is on fire, you experience “a sense of urgency” as soon as you perceive the flames.

So what in the church today requires “immediate action or attention”?

The comment was offered from the floor of our clergy conference that,

One of the problems we have is that we are not sure what the catastrophic issue is. There is a whole herd of elephants in the room. But these elephants don’t address the real crisis. There are probably 8 or 9 different icebergs that are melting. How do we determine the real crisis?

Our speaker, Janet Marshall suggested that the urgency we face is simply “survivability.” Reflecting on what she had heard in our Diocese, she said,

There is a sense of urgency, something must be done. What happens just before that happens is that the walls get built up again. Do you honestly believe there are people in your parishes who don’t know that the issues of survivability are going to need to be thought about? They know that talking about sustainability is where they need to go next.

Are survivability and sustainability the essential realities that require “immediate action or attention” in our Diocese? Should survival be the urgent concern of churches? Survival of what? Survival of church buildings? Clergy salaries? Parish and diocesan programs? What really needs to survive?

In the earliest church we are told the followers of Jesus,

devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42)

The urgency here is to nurture one another with teaching, fellowship, worship, and prayer. The early Christians were not trying to sustain any established structures or support expensive buildings. They sought to support one another in their awareness of the presence and action of Christ at work in their lives and to live from this deep inner sense of Christ’s presence in response to the word of truth they encountered together.

No one needs to “create a sense of urgency” where there is openness to the presence and action of God’s Spirit. The church’s urgent need is to live responsively to the Spirit.

If there is a “real crisis” in our church it may be our awareness of and responsiveness to the work of God’s Spirit. The solution to this crisis lies only in our determined intention to open our hearts to God, to seek the gentle moving of the Spirit in our lives, and to live obediently to the prompting of this Spirit.

We need to be clear about the nature of the church. We are intended to be the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is that community which is animated by the Spirit of Christ. It does not worry about survivability, because the Body of Christ is not afraid of dying. In the Body of Christ we understand that out of death comes resurrection. There is nothing we cannot let go of because we trust that out of the space opened by death, new life will emerge. The urgency in the church is not to sustain ourselves but to allow to die those obstacles to the fresh moving of God’s Spirit in our midst that threaten the creative life of God’s presence.