“Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to
be deplored.” So stated the Duke of Cambridge
in the late 1800’s.
The duke quoted above is not alone in expressing this sentiment. A few years ago, while one of our children was down for his afternoon nap, my industrious wife decided to rearrange the living room. A couple of hours later as he emerged from the hallway and saw everything repositioned, he stopped in his tracks and exclaimed, “I like same, not change!” You would have thought his whole world was turned upside down.
Concerning this aversion to change one person has commented, “Nothing is ever done until everyone is convinced that it ought to be done, and has been convinced for so long that it is now time to do something else.” Perhaps the words from about 100 years ago of the clerk of Abington Presbytery near Philadelphia express it best. He said, “Lord, help us to be right, for you know how hard it is to change.”
Jesus often advocated change. When His disciples brought their quest for kingdom prominence to Him, He forthrightly declared, “…Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Additionally, following His wilderness temptation, Jesus “began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matthew 4:17) In Vine’s Expository Dictionary we are told the Greek word for repent (MATANOEŌ) means “to change one’s mind or purpose, always, in the New Testament, involving a change for the better.” The continuing necessity of change lies at the heart of our relationship with Christ and is a key ingredient of repentance.
There is, however, need for caution. Not all change is permissible or advisable. Indeed, in contradistinction to all other rationale, if a principle or practice is God-ordained it is not within human prerogative to change it. On the other hand, if a matter is of human origin we are at liberty to change it. We must exercise caution, though. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is not best to swap horses while crossing the stream.” In an era that has seen and continues to see more change in less time than ever before, we must keep these ideas in mind.
Still, we are daily faced with the need for change, individually and corporately. With respect to our walk with the Lord: If we are growing we are changing. If we are not changing, we are not growing. Thus, resistance to change in this regard results in spiritual atrophy. Relative to the sin which so easily entangles us, we recall that repentance requires change. Resistance to change in this instance also results in spiritual weakness. Clearly, walking towards Christ and away from the world is a process which requires change.
Baskets full of books have been written on the dynamics of change. So, all the bases cannot be covered in this short article. However, considering the congregational impact of change, there are two additional factors which need to be addressed.
#1) Beneficial change requires effort— According to Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion, “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.” Jesus’ preaching was an impressive force which evoked change in the lives of many. The first century church was an impressive force which went everywhere preaching the word, eventually changing the world. So, whether we are talking about the change needed for our lives to develop a missional focus or to be more effective evangelistically or changing the décor of the foyer, much effort is required.
#2) Beneficial change requires patience— A fundamental function of the body of Christ is fostering spiritual growth in one another’s lives. We are to help one another become more Christ-like. (See: Ephesians 4:11-16.) Tragically, many become frustrated in this process and give up on trying. Thankfully, God does not give up on us, right? Thomas Kempis speaks to this point: “Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” As we think about helping one another grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, we should stop often to consider just how patient God is with each one of us.
© Bill Williams