Fearlessly Facing Change
By Thom Mollohan
Recently I had lunch with a friend who now ministers to ministers and helps church congregations in the eastern part of our state. As we visited together, he described the extent and rate of cultural change, not only in American society at large but the church also, as being, "white water change." The more I thought about it, the more accurate a phrase I consider it to be.
Whether we like it or not, the world is changing and with it, our churches are changing. As new church families (a.k.a. congregations) are being birthed in our area, and as a new generation emerges within the ranks of established churches, it is an era of renewed sense of calling and the establishment of renewed resolve to experience God at work in our lives, our homes and our community.
With all of this being expressed in the churchís "reinventing itself" (though it is really God Who "reinvents" His people), one can easily feel as if he or she is being swept wildly out of control down the swirling rapids of change. Some of this change is physical as in the building of a new facility, but some of it is "programmatic," as a congregation seeks to engage its surrounding neighborhood in new ways.
At times like these, harsh words within a church family can be spoken, battle lines can be drawn, and hearts can be wounded.
Why does this sometimes happen? How is it possible that we, who are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, can react in such different ways to the same dynamics and then hurt each other as we begin to assume the worst in the otherís motives?
For some, change implies loss. This may be easy enough to understand as it often DOES result in loss. It is natural to be reluctant to either entrust to a "newcomer" something into which one has poured his/her life or, worse, to drop it altogether, especially if one is not yet convinced that there is no way to move forward in the churchís journey without sacrifice. Of course, a person is going to be cautious in accommodating what may at first appear as merely a flux in the fickle whims of an ever morphing society.
On the other hand, it is also understandable that some really do perceive what is an actual need for change in the church today.
Oh, I do not mean a departure from the Scriptures as being the standard for living life and discerning truth. On the contrary, there must in fact be a renewed sense of the Scriptureís relevance to life, to its applicability to the soulís search for meaning, and to the moral quagmire that has so mired our culture down.
Because the Gospel is "Good News" for all people in all places for all time, it cannot be changed in its essence (and any attempt on our part to change its essence negates the validity of all the rest of the message we proclaim). Indeed, as this "Gospel" was in the mind of God before time began and will be perfectly unveiled and vindicated in every way when time has ended, it is an invincible column of rock that continually defeats the torrents of the river of time.
Still, each generation has its own voice in proclaiming His praises and in serving Him. And as Godís Spirit is always breathing new life, new inspiration, and new vision for how we may praise and serve our living God, each voice is continually being transformed.
If you have a church family (a congregation to which you are a member), understand that change comes. If you welcome it, consider the perspective of those who do not welcome it. Allow their thoughts to shed the light of wisdom on your race to embrace change. Think well on how God may have sent these persons to play a part in shaping you as well as your church family and that their "reluctance" can also be used by God.
If you are of the "donít like change; donít want it" camp, take to heart Godís desire to accomplish new things in you, your church family and your community. A God as unimaginably powerful and as infinitely loving as He, always has more to do and say to a people who will obediently walk with Him.
Change will come however we feel about it. Our part is to help it be the right kind of change, not the change of recklessness Ė but also not the change that comes from the deterioration and decay of stagnation.
If you do not yet have a church family (local church congregation), seek out one that genuinely points to the Bible as having the answers to all of lifeís questions and then allow God to bless them through you as He allows change to freshen and revive.
"Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever." (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)
Thom Mollohan is a pastor and the author of the Hunger For More weekly religion column published by the Ohio Valley Publishing Company. He lives with his wife and four children in Gallipolis, Ohio, USA. You may contact Thom through the Letters page of this magazine.
Send this Page To a friend!