At work, we use a wonderful accounting software that helps us comply with all the complicated regulations that exist in educational business accounting. Since the laws and regulations are in a constant state of flux, the software supplier has to keep enhancing and changing the software to remain relevant to our needs. This is a bit of a mixed blessing and after every new release we hear moans of, “Why can’t they just leave it alone?” and “I just got used to the last changes!”.
It isn’t just in accounting that we feel the pinch of our fast-changing world. Change is rampant in our culture and impacting everyone every day.
We all face change differently. Some folks see change as an opportunity or an interesting puzzle to solve. I’m one of those. I love to see how I can make the best of a new situation.
I have three sons. The oldest seems to share some of my attitudes, judging from the fact that he married an Italian girl right after his college graduation and relocated to Europe. For him, the winds of change carried him aloft to new adventures. My two younger boys experienced too much change while growing up, as their pastor-father and I served a series of small churches throughout the western US, but today they approach change quite differently. In my middle son’s ideal world changes would happen seldom and very slowly. My youngest seems indifferent to upheavals in his circumstances, bobbing along in the current with aplomb.
Just as people face change in a variety of ways, some organizations are more able to adapt. Our churches, especially the mainline denominations, are having a particularly hard time adjusting.
We know the truth in the saying that life is change. To stop growing (changing) is to start dying. In the church, we accept that truth in our heads, but not in our hearts. We feel a resistance to keeping up with current trends and fashions because we feel, rightly, that the Gospel is for all ages and times. It should not need some modern gimmick to remain relevant.
However, there is another fundamental truth that we must keep in mind: everything in creation is in a constant state of change. Even a seemingly immutable rock is in the process of being worn away by the elements. Mountains are either growing higher or wearing away. All of creation, all that God has created, changes. That is part of his plan. Only the Creator never changes.
The church, part of his plan, was created to change and to impact the world.
We can adapt to the new realities in our world without compromising our faith in the changeless God. We don’t need to try to update or reinterpret God’s word in order to become more effective, but we might have to alter some of our cherished traditions.
A word of caution…don’t undervalue those people in your ministry or congregation who are resistant to change. If everyone were an “early adopter” and eager for change for its own sake, as I sometimes am, we would be rootless, blown about and subject to each new fad.
Our traditionalists provide our roots, the adventurers provide our wings and the ones grounded in their personal faith while bobbing above the currents of change provide stability, and the glue that holds us together.
We must honor each one’s God-given perspective as we adapt to our new circumstances if we hope to have a significant impact on the world of today and tomorrow.