“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.