A good friend sent me an email this morning that reminded me of how important the call to the modern church to change or be prepared to die is.
He referenced a new book by Gil Rendle, Journey in the Wilderness: New Life for Maine Churches. A quote that he shared really hit home. It reminds me of what I’ve seen over and over again in mainline churches: “In his work on organizational change, Robert Quinn writes about a level of change that he identifies as “deep change,” and he states that many organizations are now at the point where there is only one choice left- either deep change or slow death. Quinn was not writing for the church, although this point of deep change is clearly felt by the mainline church. He was commenting on the level of change that all organizations, corporations, and businesses need to address in order to learn how to stay alive and thrive in the newly shaping world about us.”
This goes right in line with my point in “Can the Church Catch Up?” Change. That’s what this is all about- and not just change, but deep change. Most churches are satisfied with toying with change or flirting with it but they have real commitment issues. It is one thing to have book studies or to try a new program or two, it is an all together different story to peruse change with a passion, to tear down the old and build up the new, to revision not only how we do worship, but how we are structured, how we interact with our community, what our daily lives look like, how we treat strangers and the least of these.
The same minister friend who sent the email once said, “Jesus asked everyone he met to change.” Just being who he was challenged anyone in his presence to change. Every 500 years or so, God challenges the church to change – not flirt with change but commit to deep change, systemic change.
October 31 marks the 493rd anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Thesis to the doors of the church in Wittenburg. We are due for a change – a deep change. And here’s the thing, if we don’t do it, it won’t stop God from doing it. Change is gonna’ come. The question is, are we gonna’ be a part of it?
Much like the church in Martin Luther’s time, the modern church has drifted away from biblical precepts. In the way most churches operate, privilege is more important than humility, the rich more important than the poor, members are more important than outsiders, cleanliness is next to godliness (just mess up the kitchen or wear dirty clothes if you don’t believe me), repeating the ‘law’ or the way of the past substitutes for being led by the Spirit who we really would rather just not talk about more-or-less be led by… you are probably getting the point. What we have become, is not what we are meant to be and those on the outside see it clearly, even though churches frequently do not.
It is time for a deep change. Feel free to argue that it’s not, frankly it won’t change anything (literally). It is perfectly rational to not like change. Change is uncomfortable. By definition it means the loss of what was; it is it’s own kind of death experience. It is perfectly rational to not like change…but for Christians, the people of the resurrection, we should not fear that kind of death. Remember, “the old life is gone and the new life has begun.”
The argument can and has been made that we then also shouldn’t fear not changing and the slow death that will come with it. To that I say true, but you miss two important elements which come with that perspective. First, if you let your church and The Church die because of your unwillingness to let the Spirit move you as the Spirit wills, while there will undoubtedly be life on the other side for The Church, there probably won’t be life on the other side for your church. Do not forget what happens to the fig tree that bares no fruit. Second, this is not about changing for the sake of change, this is about changing for the sake of God, changing toward God’s will and away from the twisted representation of Christ that so many Christians portray.
It’s do or die time – you in?