The only thing that doesn’t change in a church

by | Church Working Right

Change is in the air. Fall is here, the temperature is dropping, and the leaves are changing. Daylight Saving Time weekend (a change with our clocks) is just around the corner. If there is one thing I’ve learned in life and ministry: change is inevitable. Ironically, it’s the only thing that doesn’t change. Embrace change and live, resist it and be miserable. “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less!” (General Eric Shinseki)

Here’s my primary point today: We have to accept change in order to make progress.In the Bible, Abraham was 75 when God came to him and said, “I want you to move.” Abraham agreed. From that point on, his life was one incredible adventure. There was little certainty, but there was a lot of significance–because he was willing to be flexible. The Christians in the first century had to change. Paul’s method of preaching in Athens was different than his method at Corinth because the cultures were different. The Christians at Jerusalem had to make a big adjustment in accepting Gentiles into the church.  Jesus changed and reframed everything during his three public years of ministry. He also gave 8 Beatitudes. Someone once said there should be a 9th Beatitude: “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape!”

We have to accept change too. The pipe organ isn’t part of our worship service any longer. We seldom hear the King James Version of the Bible read. We likely won’t ever sing, “Do Lord, O Do Lord, O do remember me” again. You can sit back with your arms folded in disgust and pine for the good old days, or you can get on board with God’s program for the future. That’s why Jesus taught that you can’t put new wine in old brittle wineskins, because when the wine ferments, the old wineskins will burst. You better put new wine in new wineskins that can expand and be flexible.  If you want to be healthy as a church (and pastor), view change as a friend to embrace, not an enemy to fear.

In coaching churches, I’ve found that people are often more comfortable with today’s problems than tomorrow’s solutions…especially when it means they have to change. One of my mentors used to say “the only people who like change are wet babies!” Whenever I try to help a church, I attend their service and ask myself “What year is it in this church?” It’s hard to reach an AI, Wi-Fi world with an 8-track methodology and mentality. Learn to embrace healthy and wise change.  Not every change is good, but without change, there can be no good. If the past is idolized, the mission will be marginalized.

John Maxwell writes: “Just about everyone wants to grow better. But relatively few people actually dedicate themselves to the process. Why? Because growth requires change, and change is hard. But the truth is that without change, growth is impossible. Most people fight against change, especially when it affects them personally.” As novelist Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” 

Leadership coach, Brian Dodd said so well, “‘There are few things as sad as watching a once great church grow old, become irrelevant, and slowly die. What is worse is that they either don’t know they’re dying or they simply don’t care as long as those remaining are happy.” Brian continues, “Here is what I have noticed about many of these churches – at a pivotal point, a decision was made to continue doing ministry the way they always have, rather than alter their approach to reach a changing community or the next generation. After months of committee meetings and off-line conversations, the church finally utters The 10 Last Words Of Dying Churches – ‘We’ve never done it that way before.’  Those 10 powerful words subsequently have a ripple effect that lasts generations.”   

Don’t let that happen in your church and on your watch, friend!  If you need help with making changes, let us know. Our experienced leaders at D Vaughan Consulting understand how difficult this can be and are here to help.

Cheering you on as you stay anchored to the rock, but geared to the times.