Jj recently asked, “Why change?” A very good question. As they say, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” The simple, and maybe obnoxious answer, would be “Why not change?”
So, allow me to begin by suggesting some rather good arguments not to change. First, keeping things the way they are offers a level of stability for the individual and/or the group. Second, maintaining status quo provides some sense of security. In an era of constant change and flux (in the West it is at a dizzying speed) security can be a good thing. Every person is different, and therefore there are those, for whatever the reasons, where tolerance for change is extremely low. They need security for their emotional or mental state. Third, concurrent with the previous two reasons, no or low change brings no or low stress. Of course I am speaking in relative terms since all of life is stressful to one degree or another. It is the capacity to deal with stress (or more properly stated – distress) that factors in to a person’s or group’s response to change.
There is another reason for not changing things, and that is the benefit(s) of tradition. Much has already been written on the good that tradition brings, so I won’t belabor the point here. Traditions inform and help to form the culture of a group. Tradition not only brings stability, security and a lack of stress to a person or group, but it offers connection to others in the past, present and even into the future. That can certainly be a good thing.
Now, back to the original question: why change? First, let me say that the change about which I speak has to do with the life of a person who has a saving faith in the life, death, burial, resurrection of the God-Man Jesus Christ. The God who became man to live the life of purity, holiness and righteousness on our behalf and then died to pay our debt to God so that believers would be made right in time and into eternity with God. Even more, the change about which I speak has to do with the community of believers called the church.
When talking about change in this context I am presupposing:
1. Not all change is good. Good change is good. Good change that is defined, described or derived from God’s Word is unquestionably good.
2. Change is inevitable. However, from our human perspective change can be serendipitous or intentional, incidental or incredibly significant.
3. Spiritual, social and numerical growth in the life of a person and church requires change.
4. To get from one point to another necessitates change.
5. To move from a sinful condition to a glorious one demands change.
6. True, biblical reform comes through biblical change.
Not all change is good.
Good change is good. Good change that is defined, described or derived from God’s Word is unquestionably good. The history of our U.S. culture is one that reinforces the idea of progress and that all progress is positive. Yet, as we know, not all progress is beneficial or positive. I leave it to you to think about all the relatively good things or advances made over the past two hundred years, which have also brought challenges and problems.
For the believer in Christ and the local church, we must be careful to evaluate the “why” of change against the “what” of Scripture. For example, if our personal or corporate worship life is anemic then God clearly demands that to change. If we are being faithful to the Lord in terms of exercising the New Testament “one-another” commands then we ought not to change. Our starting point and measurement must be what God tells us, not what the latest innovation, scheme, program, method, model, fad or trend says.
Change is inevitable.
However, from our human perspective change can be serendipitous or intentional, incidental or incredibly significant. God did not make a stagnant universe, therefore nobody lives in a stagnant environment. In his providential way, the Potter oversees his creation as it changes (shifting of the magnetic poles, the rise and fall of mountains, the blessing of rain and the curse of monstrous storms, etc.) He also manages the affairs of life from the toss of the die to the rule of dictators. In his redemptive way he is bringing history to its culmination, all in his good time and according to his ultimate design. God works providentially and intentionally. In fact, God originally designed our planet and the universe to move from one state of glory to another (see below)!
The effect of nature’s activities bring about slight or enormous changes to us. We are more apt to accept natural events that change us than we are to accept intentional change introduced or imposed by others. And, how we perceive the change will impact our response or reaction to it.
In any case, change happens. The real question is not so much “why change” but rather what shall our response be to it?
Spiritual, social and numerical growth in the life of a person and church requires change.
We live in a created world that was intended from the beginning to move from one condition (glory) to a better condition (glory). This was even when God declared His original creation as good!
Original man, Adam and Eve, were required to change. How? They were to grow in knowledge of themselves and of God (this was their prophetic function). They were to learn about God, his creation, about self and others by thinking his thoughts about such things.
They were to grow in their relationship to and worship of God. This was part of their priestly function. They were also to grow in their relationship to the rest of creation as they glorified it by ruling over it as faithful and good stewards, and fashioning it according to heaven’s model. This was their kingly function. Through their God-directed and God-anointed labor they were to take the raw materials and re-form them into something beautiful and useful, and presenting the fruit of their labor to God. The moment he began to take care of the garden in the land of Eden, things changed.
As stewards they were to cultivate the earth. As stewards they were to exercise dominion over God’s creatures. Note that the moment Adam named the animals things changes. They were to be fruitful and multiply, which of necessity breeds change! Even without the introduction of sin and evil, change would have taken place as God’s people would have re-formed creation from one condition of glory to the final consummation of all things in glory.
However, sin brought a different kind of change into the world, reversing that which was good. It corrupted the design for positive and glorious good change into a spiritual, social, and physical entropy.
God’s plan not to be undone, the redemption he brings causes change in creation, reversing the reversal of sin. The whole point of the Bible is to record this changing dynamic in the universe, a change brought about by God’s recreative and redemptive work through Jesus Christ.
As believers in Jesus Christ and as a local church in Jesus Christ, we are being changed and we must work toward that change from sin to glory. Granted, it is by God’s Word and Holy Spirit that true, redemptive change takes place. Nevertheless, we are told to deliberately and intentionally labor in God’s saving work as God works in and through us (Philippians 2:12-13). This process of change is, in theological and biblical language, repentance and faith. God desires, expects and demands us to put off the old by repenting and put on the new by faith. This means change.
This God-inspired and God-directed change affects our own and our church’s spiritual and social growth. For the local church this healthy maturity into Christ-likeness means growth, and often, but not always, means numerical growth.
To get from one point to another necessitates change.
This statement should be obvious. But, this statement also begs the question: to what point are we going? What’s the goal? Ultimately the goal for the believer and the church is a state of Christ-like glory. If the person or the church is not moving in that direction, then here is a central reason why change is important – it is because change into Christ-likeness is unquestionably necessary! That is God’s design for us and our final destination. Anything that impedes this must be put aside, removed or destroyed. Anything that promotes and fosters this must be accepted and employed. This then leads us to and supports the next statement:
To move from a sinful condition to a glorious one demands change.
One of the prevailing themes in the New Testament is that of repentance and faith, going from a sinful condition to that of a glorious one; moving out of the realm of old darkness into the kingdom of God’s marvelous light. To reject this demand for change is to reject Christ. So, for one example, Hebrews makes plain that an unwillingness to repent, to mature in Christ and to take the pilgrim’s upward path toward that heavenly city will bring about God’s discipline (for true believers) or wrath (for pretenders of faith).
True reform comes through biblical change.
Since we are called to and designed for dynamic change into Christ-likeness, then change is inevitable and required. Personal and corporate change as those who believe in and belong to Jesus must and will take place.
This purpose of knowing Jesus Christ is to love him. To truly know him is to love him. to love him is to become and live like Christ. This is transformation and re-formation at its best. Having said this, it must be understood that transforming and reforming people and the church is not the ultimate goal. The objective is not change for change’s sake. Sometimes we, particularly in the United States, assume that change is what we need – just because it supposedly means progress. It doesn’t necessarily mean that.
Having been a Christian for forty years I have observed and participated in the numerous programs and models churches have used in order to change, to re-form. There are a myriad of reasons for adopting and implementing these changes. We can hear and read compelling arguments, such as “to make a difference in the world,” “to change the world,” “to save the church from impending death,” “to be relevant,” “to grow,” ad infinitum and often ad nauseum.Those reasons are not insufficient, and all too often bring about more harm than good.
That brings us back to the first main point: not all change is good. Good change is good. Good change that is defined, described or derived from God’s Word is unquestionably good.
So, Jj, in answer to your question, Why change? We are to change personally and corporately because God wants us to change to become more like Jesus Christ.