Change is a given. You don’t have to like it, but you have no choice but to acknowledge it. Being alive means changing. To be just a little bit morbid, even in death our bodies change as they decompose. Like I said, change is a given.
Inexplicably, churches have come to think they don’t have to change. The world around them changes at an ever quickening pace as technology changes our ability to travel, communicate and gather information, and the Church clings to the past believing that if we just believe hard enough we can make the reality of change go away. But we can’t. Change is a given.
The Church’s general resistance to change is really odd if you think about it. God was (and is) always about to do a new thing. From Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to the prophets, to Jesus, the disciples and Paul, the people of God are always experiencing God moving them from one state of being to another. The way it was done (the old life) is gone and the new way (the new life) has begun, and those are just the most obvious Bible stories. Add to that the fact that the history of the church is also littered with constant change. It truly is inexplicable that we think we don’t have to change.
So, how did we get to this place of such a staunch resistance to change? We forgot that Jesus was a radical redeemer. You see, as a colleague once reminded the congregation where I serve, Jesus never met anyone he didn’t ask to change.
If you don’t think you need to change, you haven’t met Jesus. He never met anyone he didn’t ask to change. Now, while change comes in all forms (some change is small, some is big), it isn’t all that surprising to see in scripture that Jesus was typically interested in the big changes. The kind that challenged the status quo and flipped our whole way of seeing something upside down. He was a radical reformer. A reformer in that he asked us to change, radical in that it often required a paradigm shift to become the person Jesus said God was calling you to be.
Are Churches radical reformers? Do we ask the people we meet to change? Radically? Better yet, are we willing to change radically? And don’t think that we are talking about change for the sake of change here. That would just be mean and short-sighted. We are talking about change that engages fully with the reality that change is inevitable.
In that, the Church must also recognize that it has been clinging to the past for so long that it lost sight of the communities in which God planted them. The Church must acknowledge that as it clung so desperately to how things have “always” been done, it lost it’s ability to hold onto a God who moves about in a tent (2 Samuel 7:5) and is always about to do a new thing.
If we can recognize that, then we can also see that in order to catch back up with the community in which God has planted us, it is going to take a radical change. Not change for change’s sake, but change for God’s sake. It is not about changing what we believe about God, rather, it is about trying desperately to live into it! It would feel better, it would feel safer, to move slowly, methodically and only in places that cause the least stress, but that’s not the kind of change Jesus asked of those who met him.
Have we truly met Jesus? Do we hear his call to radical reform? Are we willing to let loose of our past and let the Spirit move us as the Spirit will?
It is time for the Church to change at the speed of grace.