Kingdom Business Means Change!

“Change” is perhaps the most controversial word in church vocabulary.  No matter where I go, mentioning that word creates conflict and panic.  Some Christians already see the need for change in the local church while others view those who call for change as a threat to God’s will. 

While it is certainly possible for those calling for change to be pressing for change that is unbiblical, I find this to rarely be the case.  Those who assail the so called “change agents” will certainly accuse them of advocating and promoting unbiblical change, for that is the only way to justify their resistance, but the truth is that most people calling for change do so out of a deep love for God, his word, and his mission.  That is to say, that the majority of the calls for change come from a belief that the changes being called for is biblically appropriate and needed for the continuation of God’s mission in a new emerging culture.

But the voice of resistance will insist that any change is wrong because the way things are and have been has always and will always be the right way.  Here is where we need to learn a lesson from the book of Acts.  In the book of Acts we read about the beginning of the church’s undertaking of the mission of God began by Jesus.  Both Peter and Paul play a very influential role in the life and mission of this first century church.  But before both could do so, they both had to come to grips that the change they were resisting was actually right.  Paul, formerly known as Saul, had the most dramatic confrontation.  He had to come to grips with the reality that the Jesus he opposed was actually the Messiah.  This led to Saul’s conversion (see Acts 9.1-17; 22.1-21; 26.9-23) and subsequently becoming the apostle Paul, missionary to the Gentiles, who would challenge the Jewish Christians towards change for the sake of the Gentile mission.  Peter was convinced that it was wrong for him as an ethnic Jew to associate with a Gentile.  It took a vision from God to convince him otherwise which opened the door for the gospel to begin its advancement among Gentile peoples (Acts 10-11.21).

It is easy for us to look back and see how wrong Saul/Paul and Peter were.  Hindsight is always 20/20.  But we must remember that both of them believed they were right in resisting change and that their righteous resistance was the will of God.  Like them, those who resist change will overwhelmingly believe they are in the right and that their resistance is the will of God (that is, biblically warranted).  But are they?  While the answer to that question can only be answered on a case by case basis, I am very skeptical of those who resist change when what they oppose will undoubtedly hold the church further and further from effectively engaging in its call to mission. 

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6 responses to “Kingdom Business Means Change!

  1. I agree with you, Rex. Shouldn’t the last sentence be something like, “I am skeptical of those who resist change when their opposition will undoubtedly keep the church further from effectively engaging its call . . .”

    I have to admit, when someone suggests something that I didn’t think of first, I instantly feel like opposing their suggestion even if in a friendly sort of way. Is that human nature or just sinful nature? To want to make the world around us fit our assumptions and expectations.

    Thoughtful post, Rex. Thanks again.

  2. Great point about the last sentense. It is the resisters holding the church back rather than what they resist.

    I think we do struggle somewhat when someone else beats us to the punch (is that because we have a seminary degree and what to be the expert?). There several factors that contribute to resisting change: fear, ego, arrogance, etc… Any one of these or combination of these factors enables us to stand in the way rather than contribute to the way.

  3. Mmmmm…at one point – a very low point, mind you – in my ministry I actually was trying to get in with the ultra-conservatives in my own portion of the movement, the independent Christian churches/churches of Christ (instrumental). A lot of what I didn’t like about the so-called “change agents” then I still don’t like, but for different reasons. At that time I saw their work as a step away from the scriptural, God-given way to do things. Now I see it as a general drift towards generic, pop evangelicalism.

    That said, one major difference is that I’ve decided not to draw lines just because I disagree with a person or group’s “take” on Scripture and Christian living. One has to go a bit further to earn my thorough dissatisfaction nowadays. But then, I’m probably so odd now that it’s best I not draw lines….

  4. I realize there are change agents seeking change simply for the sake of keeping up with the latest trends. That is not the change I am talking about. I am talking about missional change and such changes, while made from the right motive, will still be met with resistance by those who want the church to remain the same. Such resistance is done supposedly to keep the church as the Lord wants it but in my experience, those who have put up the most resistance were doing so in an effort to keep the church within the parameters of their own personal preferences.

    Rex

  5. Change is a buzzword for false teacher in the eyes of many. That’s tragic because congregations are dying under the stress of tensions and conflicts fought on the battlefield of dead works and traditions. While some change may really threaten the integrity of the church as the pillar and ground of truth; change is a dynamic of the Christian mission from the time of the work of Jesus. Thus, new wine skins are needed for new wine. If we get past the present confusion about change, I hope we can somehow clarify a useful theology of change.

    Bryan

  6. Bryan,

    That is a very well-put statement. I may even quote that sometime in something larger, like a sermon or class on change. Thanks for that comment.

    Rex

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