Some change is imposed. Some change is sought. Some change is welcomed. Some change is resisted. Some change is so predictable but still manages to stun us as if it was impossible to see coming! Looking back over the past few years I can see the changes that have happened in my life. There are some changes that are currently happening in me. Looking at what has changed and what is changing helps me to see with increased clarity what changes are about to happen - and indeed,must happen. But, I find myself continually battling the desire to resist change. Perhaps because of my recent health battles, I've been reminded that resistance is a far weaker strategy than management when it comes to dealing with change. The result for me is, I have to make some changes.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Second Peter 3:18
It is Friday. My day off. My Sabbath. Each Friday morning Kim and I go on a coffee-date. As we went into Launceston Kim remarked how many vacant shops there now are. I am told that in the downtown central business district there are seventy shops vacant. There will always be commercial property vacancies in any city. And for the most part, Launceston has had around 25 shops vacant at any one time. When online shopping began to take off over five years ago, retailers were advised that they didn't adapt to this change in retail spending habits. Most didn't. This change was utterly predictable, yet, for the most part, poorly managed by retailers. With our recent electricity black outs (not to mention the skyrocketting price of electricity), many people are eager to change the way they power their homes and businesses. Major utilities will have to change the way they go about their business in order to survive. (The laziest way they can manage this predictible trend toward domestically generated renewable energy is to seek government support.) In the city where I grew up, Geelong, its citizens are bemoaning the lack of Government assistance in keeping th highly inefficient Ford Motor Car Company running (Ford has announced that they will shut its Geelong operation in 2016). Someone didn't see inevitable change coming!
In 1997, we held a members meeting at Legana where I shared with our then small church that we needed to look beyond our four walls because technology would enable us reach out in unimagined ways to countless numbers of people. Most people scoffed at this. But we took the necessary steps to ride the multi-media change that began back then and today we nearly have as many people watching our live Sunday service electronically as we do participating in our building.
God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
and do not fear God.
Careers, status (single or married), family composition, ageing, retirement, expenses, sicknesses, and death, are all predictible changes that nearly all of us will/have/are experienc/e/ed/ing. Over the past 18 years that I have been pastoring Legana, I have had to change. In even more recent times, I have hadto change. I used to open all my mail. I used to take every phone call. I used to see every impromptu visitor. The busyness of my life now, has meant these things have had to change. The way I pastor our church has had to change. I now meet with the elders and pastors regularly as we discuss how we can care better for those in our church. I now meet regularly with the Home Group leaders as we discuss how to care for and disciple those in our church. These are recent changes. Whereas I previously tried to extend myself to every person, even those outside of our church, I have had to change. As the trappings of comfort lull my sense of urgency for reaching those who are separated from Christ and without hope (Eph. 2:12), I have to manage the inevitable change toward complacency and keep stretching and challenging myself.
¶ Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
First Corinthians 9:24
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Second Timothy 4:7 ¶
It's not only people who have to see, accept, and manage change. Churches must do it as well. I was so proud of our church last Sunday as we implemented some changes. Apart from our Easter events, it was our highest attended service for the year thus far. I'm sure some of you wondered what on earth we were doing, but for the most part everyone soon accepted the changes we made.
As Kim and I came away from our coffee this morning, we drove past the old Chalmers Church (on the Corner of St. John and Frederick Streets) and thought of all the hard work, all the prayer, all the preaching, and all the giving that went into making that Church possible and what a shame it was that at some point its congregation and leaders didn't foresee, accept, and manage the necessary change that eventually led to its demise. The day we as a church ignore change, refuse to change, and mismanage change, will be the day we stop fearing God (Psalm 55:19) and become irrelevant.
¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
GET CHANGED WELL
The changes that are unavoidably coming into my life over the next immediate chapter necessitate that I change with their introduction. The changes that are needed for us as a church to grow and reach those in our world - who are lost in bondage to the gods of materialism and therefore without hope and in eternal peril - must be recognised, accepted and managed. To do this, we must be open to God in prayer, grounded in Scripture, connected to those who have not yet accepted God's forgiveness, and have the courage to dare to exercise godly leadership and initiate wise changes. Two thousand years of Church history tells us that when churches don't do this, they die. When a church is not prepared to change where it meets, what it does as it meets, when it meets, its style of music, its fashion, its methodof communicating, and its programs, it is going to be irrepairably ruined by the change it is resisting. This should never happen to a church because at the foundation of following Christ is dramatic change! After all, when we converted from idolising ourselves to surrendering to Christ as our Saviour and Lord, it was like going from darkness into light, death to life, and abandonment to adoption. Christians, more than anyone, should be aware of how God changes entire states and nations over generations down through centuries. This is why I think not merely in terms of the next few years, but the next few centuries and the glorious plans our glorious God has for our church to give Him great glory - if we get changed well.