Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Can Change and Fear Be Friends?

Written by: on April 24, 2023

I read the title and instantly envisioned a beautiful waterfall with water cascading down the side of a breathtaking rock formation. I could almost hear it. That image brought forth an image of a tropical paradise. I think it might be pretty common to summon this peaceful image at the end of a very challenging semester. Thinking of these images, this fictious place brought me joy in the midst of the stress from trying to meet the final deliverables for this semester. I cracked the spine of the book with a pleasant smile on my face. As I read the title in its entirety, I realized that this book is about how to create transformational change and not about a tropical paradise with breathtaking waterfalls. Greg Satell describes cascades as forces of nature. A collection of small groups, loosely connected, but united by a common purpose. He is not describing my peaceful waterfall but describing an event that prompts radical change.
When I was 17, I participated in my first Civil Rights March with my Daddy and my brother and 50,000 other protesters. It was life changing. It was the dead of winter in 1988 and at that time, my Daddy was the President of the Nashville Chapter of the NAACP (National Association for The Advancement of Colored People). We traveled by bus to Forsythe, Georgia to protest the brutal beating of 50 individuals that had returned to the town to reclaim their family land. The black families had been run out of town after a young black boy had been killed after being falsely accused of raping a white woman. That event was a Cascade event. It set in motion a series of remarkable events that created transformational change, in the town of Forsythe and in the lives of people that marched for justice. For me, it was a turning point for me and caused me to shift where I decided to go to college and how I decided to use my voice. It was the first of many protests as well as marches, sit-ins and one very short-lived hunger strike.
This book was an instruction manual for transformative change. I appreciated that Satell used the Nashville sit-ins as an example of a strategy for change. My parents were active in the sit-ins recall hearing stories of how important it was to have a plan and stick to it. The success of any strategy hinges in part on the execution of it. Satell states, “That’s why, as crucial as it is to understand how cascades function, the second aspect of transformational change- organization, planning, and discipline- is just as important, because it’s what allows us to put cascades in productive use.”(1) Productive use is not frequently used in the same sentence as transformational change. In fact, I think that most people view change as disruptive.
This book provides steps. The section on keystone change clearly outlines three criteria for success. They are:
1. A keystone change needs to be a concrete and tangible goal.
2. A keystone change unites diverse stakeholders in the Spectrum of Allies and the Pillars of Support.
3. A keystone change paves the way for futures change. (2)
This idea that keystone change is tangible, unifying, and promotes future change is a shift from how change has recently felt in this country. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle that you find most comfortable for you, I think the mere mention of the word change causes fear to surface When I think of my stakeholder group, this cause me the most pause. I don’t think that fear and change go hand in hand. How do I minimize the fear of change?
In closing, I wanted to share this passage. I found it to be remarkable:
“Revolutions are remarkable things because they do the opposite of what nature predicts. They upend an existing order, which has power and inertia on its side. And they do it with almost unthinkable speed. You wake up in the morning, and the world has changed overnight. No transition period, no forewarning. It’s as if someone flipped the switch somewhere, and poof! The world begins anew.” (3)
Loved Ones, I have a few questions for you before I conclude my final blog post this semester:

1. Have you had a Cascade moment?
2. Will you share it with us?
3. How have you been changed by it?
4. Do you fear change?
Many Blessings to you, I pray that your summer is refreshing, relaxing and rejuvenating. See you in the Fall!

1. Greg Satell, Cascades: How To Create A Movement That Drives Transformational Change (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2019),
2. Ibid., 231.
3. Ibid., 28.

About the Author


Jonita Fair-Payton

12 responses to “Can Change and Fear Be Friends?”

  1. mm Kim Sanford says:

    I was just asking a group of moms pretty much your same set of questions. In response, I’ll share the same anecdote that I shared with them because it was an early step on my journey toward ministering to parents. My older son was 2 or 3 and he was notoriously awful at bedtime. One evening in mid-December, I was so frustrated, and after the millionth time that he got up out of bed, I told him that Christmas was canceled because he wasn’t listening! It’s both embarrassing and a bit comical now, but it was a pivotal moment where I realized that I had to get a handle on my own emotional health if I wanted to thrive as a mom. Now, 10 years later, I’m hoping to help others who are on that same journey.

    • mm Jonita Fair-Payton says:

      I’d love to hear more about your NPO! I think we have all had those parenting moments. I remember one with my son that I felt terrible for years…I recently asked him about it, and he did not even remember.

  2. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi Jonita,
    Thank you for your post. I love hearing about your passion and your experiences with cascades. How did you manage your fear as your marched and protested?
    I was thinking about fear and change. In my experience they do mix for me in that fear gave way to compassion. One cascade moment was in 1993 when my husband came home to our flat in Singapore after meeting with a fellow missionary pastor. He simply said, “Cambodia is open.” I responded with, ” I’m in! When can we go?” I was 4 months pregnant with our fourth daughter and there was cause to be fearful. I arrived in Phnom Penh to a traumatized nation, minimal electricity, and the city’s infrastructure damaged by war and neglect. A cascade describes well what I witnessed in those early years and how the nation continues to be impacted by change and the gospel.
    It has been a wonderful experience getting to know you and study with you! Enjoy your summer!

    • Jennifer Vernam says:

      Wow, Jenny- what a great story! I also agree with you that change and fear can go together. Transformational change to me, means that we are messing with people’s worldview- and that is scary. In fact, I believe that if we are seeing major areas of resistance, then we know we are changing something significant. In other words, we are messing with something that is important, and that can be terrifying. Not bad, necessarily, just fraught with uncertainty.

  3. mm John Fehlen says:

    For starters, I always appreciate the perspective that you bring to my life (as well as the cohort). I often feel as if I am standing on holy ground when I read your posts Jonita.

    Now to your questions:

    1. Have you had a Cascade moment?
    About seven years ago, on March 10 I had a “coming to Jesus.” I broke. I was a mess. A good mess. I got freed of a bunch of stuff, and I couldn’t keep it to myself. It spilled out onto our congregation as I sat before them at each service and bore my soul. It opened doors of repentance, honesty, vulnerability, and healing that we are still living in to this day.

    2. Will you share it with us?
    I guess I should have just answered YES to the last question! I got ahead of myself!

    3. How have you been changed by it?
    I was changed to such a massive degree. So much so that March 10th is marked on my reoccurring calendar as “Life Changing Day.” I, by the grace of God, chose to fear the Lord rather than people. I was called out of captivity to ambition and approval of others, and am being brought into the land of abiding in Christ and acceptance of my Father.

    4. Do you fear change?
    Absolutely not. I fear not changing.

  4. Travis Vaughn says:

    Jonita, great to hear of your history in Nashville. I’d love to hear more when we get to Oxford. To answer one of your questions, yes, my cascade moment involved a church planting alliance I helped start over 10 years ago, as well as the church planting network I led for several years in Atlanta. We were built, in some ways, on the network dynamics Satell wrote about.

    Have a great summer!

  5. Jennifer Vernam says:

    Jonita, Thanks for this post. I do like hearing about your lived experiences; they broaden my worldview!

    To answer your questions:

    1. Have you had a Cascade moment? – Yep
    2. Will you share it with us? – Yes… I sort of mentioned it on yesterday’s call. This is not a super-huge one, but significant to me. It came from reading “Leading Out of Who You Are” and consisted of owning my own leadership shortfalls. Not trying to cover them up, but listening to them and decoding what the lesson in them for me is.
    3. How have you been changed by it? – I am working on obsessing less over my shortfalls. It actually translates into me being more efficient, because all that worry has taken time!
    4. Do you fear change? – I sure do! The transformational part, because I know the disruption is tough. And, when it really hits home; the most central parts of my world (read “kids” here) I do fear it.

  6. Esther Edwards says:

    Thank you for sharing who you and what you have experienced so profoundly in your posts. Your voice is so needed on so many levels. As to your questions:
    1. Have you had a Cascade moment? Yes
    2. Will you share it with us? Long story but it was through a women’s event I directed in 2010 where we asked God to birth new dreams in women… so many women began to step out in faith in new ways. One ministry was simply taking a van to the inner city of Baltimore, picking up girls in the sex trafficing industry feeding them, and finding a place for hem to get a shower.
    3. How have you been changed by it? Oh yes. I was changed by just realizing the heart of the Father for the lost and marginalized. As hearts were open to go, He gave ways and means to meet needs we couldn’t even begin to think of on our own.
    4. Do you fear change? Not really. I think I fear the work needed to get from here to there. Lol! I am usually the implementer.
    Have a wonderful summer!

  7. mm Russell Chun says:

    Professor Jonita,

    You quoted, “Revolutions are remarkable things because they do the opposite of what nature predicts. They upend an existing order, which has power and inertia on its side. And they do it with almost unthinkable speed. You wake up in the morning, and the world has changed overnight. No transition period, no forewarning. It’s as if someone flipped the switch somewhere, and poof! The world begins anew.” (3)


    I was talking to an ESL Professor who warned me that my doctoral project would not change the world. Clearly, her cohort had not read Cascade. Come to think of it, as an unbeliever, she probably never heard about the small group churches in Rome that reshaped an EMPIRE! Professor Jenny reminded me of that her in post.

    I have been in the military leadership groove for so long that I am being refreshed by the perspectives this cohort/class format has given to me. Loving it.

    I do believe that the churches small and large need to step to the proverbial “plate” on refugees resettlement. The broader topic of immigration is something that I hope to address AFTER my Interlinkt – Linking Internationals to their new Homeland – telephone app is Beta tested by next March 9, 2024 -but I am becoming convinced that it is the cascade effect that will have an impact that happens now to serve the “alien amongst us.”

    Once again, I am so grateful that this semester has been filled with cohort teachers.


  8. mm Pam Lau says:

    I love, love your story as you marched for justice! Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate you in more ways than you can know via the internet. I look forward to building more memories with you in Oxford.

    Here’s how I would answer your questions:

    1. Have you had a Cascade moment?
    Yes! I wrote about the Soul Group movement in my last post in which I was part of the initiative.

    2. Will you share it with us? Yes! It’s my last blog :).

    3. How have you been changed by it?
    This part I didn’t write in my post. So thank you for asking this question:
    The year before the Soul Groups started was the most difficult year of my adult life emotionally and spiritually. I moved to Oregon from Philadelphia with three babies under 3 and my husband who was taking on a job much bigger than him. I was terribly lonely and lost my way as a professor (I didn’t teach right away again), a friend, and as a mom. When the Soul Group movement at first met my own personal needs, I was settled, calm and able to think again. When the Soul Group movement cascaded into meeting others’ need with such momentum, the change for me was multiplied into mountains of satisfaction. God was at work through a small group of us that removed ego, a need to be the center of attention, and loneliness. The collective experience of knowing so many women no longer felt disconnected gave me a sense of purpose in life like nothing else. I was changed.

    4. Do you fear change?

    No. I don’t fear change. I fear staying the same until I see Christ.

  9. mm Tim Clark says:

    Jonita, wow. Your story about your parents and your own experience was gripping, especially after finishing the book today.

    To answer your question: I don’t know that I’ve ever been a part of a real cascade movement. I’d like to be. And I’m getting some ideas about how to try to start something.

    And to answer your other question: I love change but I’m weird.

    Glad we are in the cohort together!

  10. mm Jana Dluehosh says:

    Fear of Change! whew! If you read my blog, that was a cascade movement I had, and it was a fear of change that ended it all! Our people did not want to be changed, they wanted all the influx of new people to come in and look and worship just like them and that is just impossible and frankly hadn’t worked for them for years. Homeostaisis is what our nature wants, don’t rock the boat, don’t change and we know life is change. Nature is our greatest teacher! Thank you for all you’ve been this semester and the times you reached out to check in on me…it meant a lot! See you in Oxford!

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