The truth be known, everything changes but God. God is always the same. He's never changing. We can trust in Him and his faithfulness. We can believe in His promises in scripture. He's trustworthy, all knowing and Holy. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). So in this constantly changing world we live in, we can rest assured that God is unchanging. He's our anchor in the storm, our rock on which we build our lives. Although the world changes moment by moment, God doesn't and that's comforting.
I think the danger many churches fall into is assuming that since God doesn't change, we as a church shouldn't change either. Sometimes it seems that to change the way we do church would be, well, sinful in some way. Is our church here for (the body of Christ, Christians?) or for the lost (unchurched, living in sin without Jesus as their Savior?) You answer the question. If we as a church are here to reach the lost, then should we not structure ourselves to be able to actually reach the lost. The ways of the past won't work today. Some of yesterdays traditions might still work today, while others will not. Differences in generations make these changes a challenge. Most people resit change and if we resit changing when change is happening all around us, we run the risk of living in the past where no one is anymore. I know the older I get the more of a challenge it is for me to accept change, but I know it's necessary and vital that I always be prepared for change and even strive to see ahead of it if at all possible. Think about the differences in society today verses just a few years ago.
Families are not just husband and wife and children anymore, they're broken up! Divorce is common place and single parent homes are very common. Today we might stop and pick up something to eat on the way home from work rather than cook supper at home. We as a society have become very tolerant of diverse backgrounds, sexuality, cultures, and even religion. Years past only one person worked to bring in the household income where as now, everyone in the household works and the hours are not Monday through Friday with weekends off and businesses closed on Sundays so everyone can go to church or have family gatherings. Instead we're working evenings and weekends. With technology today we live inside more than outside as in the past. People are displaced and living all over the US and the world. Living in the same town your whole life is a rarity anymore. Loyalty to one Company or vocation is a thing of the past. Everything is fast paced these days compared to the slow and steady pace of yesterday. Communication is instant through the media and Internet. I could go on and on. Change, whether we like it or not or whether we agree with it or not has happened and I think it's safe to say, will always happen.
Why would we not change things as we see things change? Probably because we like things the ways they are or even better said... the way they were. Problem is... those days are gone and the reality is this... how effective are we today with yesterdays programs? Is the church growing by people giving their lives to Christ? Are people being baptized? Are we meeting the needs of not only church members, but of the community as well? Are we a light in a dark world? Do we have a mission statement that aligns with God's word and relevant for today's society in our community? If not, how long do we expect to carry on? If we live in the past, eventually we die and so do all our old programs and procedures. There's nothing wrong with traditions that work and are effective for today's issues, but hanging onto them because they worked in the past is not a good reason to keep it. If it's not working today, it needs to be challenged, and re-evaluated.
Think about these things...
Too many programs that the church can't support... we try to do it all rather than focus on the programs that we have enough volunteers for and supports our goals and mission statement as a church.
Visitation... it doesn't work like it did then. Going door to door and visiting is not as effective as it used to be. People don't want you coming around to their homes. Many will not even let you in and in today's society, who blames them. Maybe we need to think about this differently.
What do we offer for the divorced person, the recovering addict, the single parent, the unemployed, the depressed, children or youth... etc. These are the people that need the body of Christ in their lives.
Do we hang onto the King James version for our benefit, when we know that many folks today don't understand it? We say we don't want to destroy the true meaning of scripture by changing the translation, but we all know that King James was not the original translation of scripture back in Jesus day. So even our Kings James version is a translation of scripture and the reason it was translated to King James was so that more people might be able to understand what they were reading. Yet we won't accept a new translation of scripture now, so that people today can understand what they're reading? Where's our focus?
What about dress... do we dress up in suits and ties for church when our neighbors or those in our community don't even own a suit? Are we like the Amish who would rather make people conform to us rather than us conform to them so we can be accessible to say to them... Hey do you know Jesus? Or are we trying to protect our way of life, rather than give others new life in Christ? The latter is scary, because when we we bring in people that are different than us into our church, guess what, the church changes and are we ready for that?
Worship agenda and style, music style or theme, times of worship or discipleship training or teaching methods, evening worship effectiveness, all these things and many more are subject to change. Who says we need to have worship from 11-12 noon. Maybe if worship was at 10am instead of 11am we could get people home to watch the ball game they want to see on TV at noon? You see we don't thing about what people are doing or thinking, we just automatically think they should come to church when we have traditionally had church services. Maybe we should ask this question. What time is best for our targeted audience, those we are trying to reach? Why are we still having church in the evenings when we only have 20 people come and they are already Christians? maybe we could meet another need in the community during this time. Is it a sin to not have evening services and just spend time with our families instead? Maybe we need to ask why don't people come on Sunday evenings like they used to? Are we still doing an old program rather than identifying why we should change, what we should change, or how we should change?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that when it comes to the church, we should never compromise the word of God. We must build on Christ our solid unchanging rock, while at the same time changing constantly to meet the demands of today's society if you really want to reach the lost. Thinking this way will not only help us to look at new ways and new structure, but also understand that the things we do today won't be the right things in even four or five years from today. We must be ready to change again as society changes. We can not miss this. We need to take God's unchanging word into an ever changing society. We can still reach the lost, but we need to go where they are if we really want to tell them about Jesus.
Would it not be a shame if our unwillingness to change, prevented people from coming into a new relationship with our Lord and Savior. How can we answer to Jesus for that? "Well Jesus... I knew you would expect me to hold fast to your word and protect the church at all costs so we were very careful not to change anything this way upon your return your church would be just as you left it. I think Jesus might say... you wicked lazy servant, you knew that I would come back looking for my church to be effective and growing. You buried what I gave you under a rock yet look at these other churches. They took what I gave them and reached out and multiplied reaching those that needed help and bringing them into my family. I'll take what I've given you and give it to the churches that are effective.
Let's be the church of today with an eye on being the church of tomorrow. We can not be the church of yesterday... it's gone and over.