Is It Safe to Challenge the Status Quo?

Is it safe to challenge the status quo? No. It’s not. Post completed.

Challenge is an aggressive word. It suggests victory … or loss. It implies a struggle and change, possibly forced change. Change creates uncertainty for people. And uncertainty breeds worry and fear.

Asking people questions about what they believe and why they believe it is challenging. It’s often deemed unacceptable. People feel threatened and get defensive. It’s uncomfortable. Should we do it? Yes.

Critical thinking strengthens convictions and reveals the weakness in purely emotional responses. Emotion is not bad. It is also powerful. But it varies in intensity and can waver altogether. Conviction is a rock.

Should we challenge the status quo? Should we challenge the established way of thinking or doing things? Absolutely.

Jesus did. He challenged people’s idea of the Messiah. And He continues to challenge us to change our normal.

little boy in graduation cap and gown holding a diplomaBut what happens when I run into the rock of someone else’s conviction? Good things happen. Bad things happen. Anything is possible. I could affect change or I could get hurt — emotionally, financially, even physically.

When it comes to poverty, the established way of thinking for children in poverty — “I don’t matter” — is filled with hopelessness. The established way of thinking in poverty is a lie.

But Compassion’s work challenges this. Our sponsorship challenges this. With our sponsorship we’re telling our children to “think differently.” Believe. Hope.

Changing how I think changes how I act. And changing how I think is difficult. It’s not usually quick. It requires perseverance and commitment, which often seem in short supply when habit and convenience are present.

I value safety and comfort a great deal. They’re warm and cozy. But it wasn’t warm and cozy on the cross.

Challenging our status quo is required if we’re to grow.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” — Isaiah 58:6 (NIV)

8 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Greg Birgy February 12, 2013

    Excellent and convicting post. It’s a great complement to the book I just read twice:The Steward Leader by R. Scott Rodin challenging the norms of how non-profits go about their business.

  2. Gregg Keen July 13, 2010

    One of the keys to transformation in an organization is the transformation of the individuals. We often look at status quo situations and put the blame on others. Needed change in the status quo starts with changing ME. Ignoring needed change leads to a slow death in both the individual and the organization.

    I highly recommend the book “Deep Change” by Robert E. Quinn. The author’s point is that each of us holds a remarkable capacity to change ourselves and ultimately, our organizations.

  3. Valerie Long July 10, 2010

    “Changing how I think changes how I act. And changing how I think is difficult. It’s not usually quick. It requires perseverance and commitment, which often seem in short supply when habit and convenience are present.”

    This is so true… not only is it difficult because we fall back on old habits, but it’s difficult because, to quote a line from the movie “Pretty Woman”, “The bad stuff is easier to believe.” It’s much easier to fall into the trap of thinking that we’re worthless and that we’ll never amount to anything if we’ve been told that time and time again than it is to persevere and diligently remind ourselves that we ARE worth something and that our lives ARE important to someone (God).

    Even when my faith was more solid than it is now, this is one of the things that I struggle with the most. It’s far easier to believe the negative messages about life and our purpose in life than it is to embrace the promises and believe that we do have value in this world.

  4. Amy Dobben July 10, 2010

    Chris, this blog is powerful. “Is it safe – no. Should we do it – yes.” Our whole lives we are taught to be safe and avoid risk, but that is not compatible with the great commission, is it? Changing is hard and challenging is hard, and thankfully we do not have to do it alone!
    We must remember that the worst that can happen to us by challenging the status quo is a little discomfort in this life – as evidenced by the list of world changers listed in your follow-up post. But if our lives are lived completely surrendered to Christ, that is a very small cost in comparison to eternity.
    Thanks for bringing that into focus for us!

  5. Josh McKoy July 8, 2010

    Very good thoughts! I think I need some clarification, though, to understand better what you’re saying.

    Changing how I think will change how I act; I already know that to be true, since the Bible clearly tells us to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and that “…as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

    My question to you, Chris (or anyone else), is this: how do we challenge the status quo? There is undoubtedly one part that requires being vocal about “the new normal” in order to shake people out of their slumber, and there is another part that requires being an active witness through a changed lifestyle.

    Is that all there is to it? Aside from acting on the truth, telling others the truth, and praying for God to change people’s hearts, is there anything else that we can do to affect change in the world, especially on a global scale?

    Looking forward to a prayerful answer,

    1. Chris Giovagnoni July 9, 2010

      “how do we challenge the status quo?”

      It all depends on which status quo you’re challenging. Is it something personal – a thought pattern or a behavior? Is it a policy at work or the law of the land? Maybe something else, like wanting to lose weight or the life of a child.

      It might involve prayer, seeking counseling (e.g., personal, spiritual or financial), speaking up (via blogs, e-mails, tweets, status updates, meetings with the boss or members of the political community), etc.

      It might involve revolution – Thomas Jefferson thought each new generation needed a revolution – or civil disobedience (ref. Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela).

      It could be sponsoring a child, adopting a child, becoming a mentor. It all depends.

      It could be small or big, but whatever the status quo is and whatever the challenge is, it won’t be easy. It’ll come with frustration and doubt. It’ll require a strong will and effort. And it’ll take some time. At least, that’s my personal experience.

  6. Brianna July 8, 2010

    What a brilliantly written post. I was so moved by this, I read it twice and linked it to my Facebook account.

    “Changing how I think changes how I act. And changing how I think is difficult. It’s not usually quick. It requires perseverance and commitment, which often seem in short supply when habit and convenience are present.”

    Isn’t that SO true for us? We live truly blessed lives. We need to change our thinking from what do we WANT, to what do we NEED. Once this distinction has been made, we can give more freely to those that NEED and give up what we WANT. The blessings in our own lives will be FAR more abundant if we do this.

    I heard it said recently on the radio that “I can’t” really means “I won’t”. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Is it that I CAN’T spend time right now to write to my Compassion child, or that I WON’T? Is it that I CAN’T afford to send a birthday or family gift, or that I WON’T?

    I am working to change my thinking, but praying that Jesus will do it for me. 🙂

  7. Juli Jarvis July 8, 2010

    Sweet pic here!

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