People like things to be better. When we buy our latest car, phone, or television, we expect it to be better than the last one we bought. We expect it to be safer, more efficient, or easier to use. We want it to be bigger, smaller, or flatter. We want it to be better looking, more fun, or more capable than our last model. The salesperson will point out all the new incredible features, and then we will make our purchase based on the expectation of having these new features.
Of course, there’s often a learning curve that goes along with new purchases—and depending on your age and the type of technology, the learning curve for some of us may take a bit longer than for others. Even good change will have some discomfort associated with it. But before long, the new features will become blasé, and we will move on to thinking about how nice it would be to have yet another newer model with more capabilities and features.
Thinking about that continual cycle of upgrading has led me to a few observations about change:
- Most of us have no problem with change—as long as someone is not trying to change us. Then they’re meddling. When my doctor or wife tells me I should exercise more and make better choices in my eating habits, I’m not all that excited about what they’re telling me. It takes me awhile to think it through, see the benefits, and then start making some changes.
- It takes time to get used to some changes. Even good ones. So what if you’re not excited about a change right away. If the person, manufacturer, or organization making the change has good reasons for making the change, then give it a fair shot at trying to accept it. Some people travel the line from awareness to acceptance much more slowly than others, which is okay. But just keep moving in the forward direction.
- Change is more easily handled when you have the facts. Ask questions, ask for help, or study the subject. If we’re passive observers though, we have no right to actively complain about change.
- Change is a necessity. Benjamin Franklin said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Learn something new, read new authors, ask people from a different generation their opinion about a subject or activity. It’s also been said that irrelevance is the opposite of change, so challenge yourself to change and to stay relevant.
- Even in a group, people will usually first look at change as how it affects them personally, rather than how it affects the group as a whole. It’s like when we take a family or other group picture. We will always choose the picture we think we look best in (come on, you know you do that). Take your eyes off yourself and see change for the good of the group.
- Change is in our very DNA. As human beings, we will change physically, mentally, and spiritually whether we want to or not. Although our capacity for physical change is certainly limited by age, we have great capacity to continue to strengthen our mental and spiritual parts long after we’ve begun to decline physically. Not to change mentally and spiritually is to stagnate.
- Negative change is very difficult. I know that. Many of you may be struggling with change you didn’t anticipate, such as loss of a job, an illness, or the death of a family member. Your church has resources to help you. Ask for help, and trust God to work good in the situation.
Those statements are generalities, but let’s shift to looking at the more spiritual side of change. The Bible often speaks about it. At the point of salvation, the Holy Spirit changes us into a new creation (1 Cor. 5:17). Paul tells us to transform our minds (Rom. 12:2). He also tells us to grow up and stop being spiritually immature (Eph. 4:15). This process of the Holy Spirit changing us to become more Christ-like is called sanctification, and it’s a progressive process throughout our Christian life. But the Bible is also clear on a change that doesn’t happen. God is immutable; He does not change.
I will also tell you that we—the elders and the staff—are unashamedly committed to healthy change at our church. To do otherwise would mean that we would be content with Henderson Hills becoming an ineffective church full of stagnant pew-sitters. We are committed to growing our discipleship ministry. We are committed to challenging members to grow in their knowledge of the Bible. We we’re committed to changing ministries to adjust to changing needs in the congregation and community. We’re committed to sending people out—whether it be a family on a short-term mission trip, a couple on a long-term missionary assignment, or a pastoral resident being hired to lead his own church. We are committed to looking forward and anticipating needs of the next generation. These kinds of change are exciting!
The mandatory activities of the church—preaching, observing the ordinances, singing, Bible reading in the services—must stay the same. But beyond that, who preaches, the methods we use to observe the ordinances, the songs and the instruments accompanying them, and the versions of the Bible we use will change many times over the years.
On the other hand, here’s what you should expect from your leaders with regard to change in the church. We should keep you informed—concisely and often, be willing to listen to and answer your questions, and thoroughly study and pray through any ideas for change involving the church personnel, programs, and mission.
Be a change instigator instead of a change resister. Be a change supporter instead of a change dissenter. Be a person of grace, since all attempts at change won’t be good ideas. And if change is difficult for you, ask for more information; discuss—not gossip—about the changes with the elders, the pastor in charge of the appropriate ministry, or your CG leader; and finally, prayerfully consider how God views the change.
DENNIS NEWKIRK | LEAD PASTOR | HENDERSON HILLS BAPTIST CHURCH