by Apr 25, 2012

Change is inevitable. Change is all around us. It happens all the time. But, many people claim to hate change. Really? I can understand hating change when our waistline grows larger or when our hair turns gray or loose. I get this.

But I believe most people, in fact, love change. When we were young we wanted to hurry through our childhood so we could do what the older kids were doing. We couldn’t change fast enough. All through our life we were looking forward to our next season in life whether it was going to college, getting married, starting a family, and so on. All of this is change. Incredible amounts of change!

As adults, we want our children to become potty trained, our teenagers to mature, our taxes to become lower, and bad politicians removed from office. More change!

It wasn’t that long ago that we were watching our movies on VHS tapes and listening to our music on cassettes. (Some of you even remember vinyl records and 8 tracks!) Now we listen to music, podcasts, and watch videos on our computers, iPads, and iPhones! We haven’t stopped watching movies or listening to music, we’ve just adapted to these changes and dropped a lot of money for these new electronic toys in the process. And what do they require? Regular software updates. Constant change!

Where Change is Resisted

There is one particular institution in our culture where change is resisted the most: the church.  This is the place where change is often looked upon with distain, distrust, and skepticism.  Why is this? I believe there are several factors.

Fear. In an ever-changing culture, some people are fearful that what they hold dear will change for the worse. They look around and see the family unit falling apart, our country going in the wrong direction, and the world heading off a steep cliff. There is a desire to run to a safe shelter and escape the craziness. Many view the church as their safe shelter and if it begins to change too, they feel threatened and fearful.

I guess if one has this perspective it would be reasonable not to institute much change at all. It’s an easy way to keep a shelter safe. The problem is, I don’t see this perspective in scripture. The church was never meant to be a safe shelter. Only God is and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When we read the book of Acts, we see that the church was fluid, flexible, and a force to be reckoned with. As a result, it turned the known world upside down.

Pride. Many people invest their time, energy, and resources to make a church function. Programs are started, leaders are trained, volunteers are recruited, and much work and money is invested to see results. Sounds a lot like a small business venture except the bottom line is not a marketable product but rather seeing lives changed.

But every church method, style, or program, loses momentum over time. It is a fact of life and ministry. In order to sustain or regain momentum, change must occur. This sometimes requires retooling or restructuring.  Sometimes this requires methods, styles, programs, or “the way we used to do church” to be changed altogether.

Change can be difficult for those neck deep in the ministry. Because they are so invested, they may not be able to see the reasons for change. There can be a mindset that honestly believes, “It worked 15 years ago, so it surely should work now!” Then when change comes, their pride becomes resistant to it.

Selfishness. Let’s be honest, we all like what we like and don’t understand when other people don’t like it the way we do. This shows up in our music tastes, fashion tastes, choices for sports teams, hobbies, etc. Again, let’s be honest – we believe that we are right in our tastes, preferences, and opinions. For example, I think Chicago is the best band of all time, the 80’s had the best music, and the best football team ever is the San Francisco 49ers.  Although I believe there should be no further discussion or debate, it would be selfish (and naive) of me to think so.

When the way we like things in church change, it bothers us and selfishness can creep in. Deep down, we want things to be the way we want them and struggle when they are not. We can all be guilty of this. Many times, people don’t view change in the church through a prism of selfishness. Rather, it is often viewed as biblically compromising or “becoming like the world”.

The spiritually mature see change through a truthful prism and call it the way it is: a preference. They think or say, “I like this or don’t like that. I personally would prefer _______.”  Their attitude is humble and their demeanor is not demanding. They are not selfish and recognize that change, in and of itself, is not bad. They just preferred an earlier model of the way church did things.

The REAL Issue

The real issue is not about what should change but what should NEVER change. The way we do church will always change. It has to in order to stay relevant for the next generation. I don’t teach in a robe and sandals like Jesus did, Christians don’t gather in the local Jewish Synagogue courtyard like the first century believers did, and today’s churches don’t sing the same songs the early Christians sang. Why? Because those things were not what was important. They were just tools for that moment in time.

I have a very small list of things that should NEVER change in a church. They are:

  1. The Word of God is our sole authority
  2. Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven
  3. Core Doctrine
  4. A church should love God, love people, and serve others

Our church has undergone a lot of changes in the last seven years. We’ve overhauled an outdated constitution, added an Elder Board, replaced pews with chairs to gain more seats, changed the environment in our worship center, and we now sing more current worship songs. We have also changed the look of the staff, changed the website several times, and have changed our church vision to have more of a focus on our local community.

More changes will occur as each year comes and goes. It is the rhythm of life and ministry. But what hasn’t changed in many decades is our core doctrine. This is the way it should be. We’ve determined what should never change and are willing to change just about anything else if it helps us accomplish our church vision and mission.

These changes have drawn people to and have driven people from our church. There is no way around this. So if you struggle with change, especially at your church, remember these two things:

  1. Pull out your cell phone and be reminded of how much change you live with all the time. Upgrade as often as you can without feeling any guilt.
  2. Think about your future in heaven. After all, God is going to change everything and make everything new. We will spend an eternity experiencing new and exciting changes as we explore all the new and exciting things our heavenly Father has in store for us! Believe me, heaven will never be stagnant nor unchanging.

Watch or listen to Barry’s recent message called Jesus Hates Religion by clicking here.

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