Whatever else the New Year holds, it will mean change. “Change”, said John F. Kennedy, “is the law of life. And those who look to the past or present are certain to miss the future”.
If the truth be told, Christians often find this business of change difficult. We would like the church to remain the same. Some years ago one of our older members said to me:
I’ve sat in this same seat for a third of a century, so why should I change and sit elsewhere?
We need to remember, however, that change is a fact of life Centuries ago the ancient Greek, Heraclitus, remarked: “There is nothing permanent except change”. The only difference today is perhaps the pace of change. In this respect I am reminded of a news item reported to have been published in a Ghanaian newspaper:
Ghana is to change over to driving on the right. The change will be made gradually.
Change, for good or ill, is a fact of life. But it is more than a fact of life. It is also of the essence of the Christian faith. Mark records in his Gospel that “Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. ‘The right time has come and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the good news” (Mark 1.15). To follow Jesus involves “turning away” from one’s sins. The older versions speak of ‘repenting’. But there’s no difference of meaning. Repentance means more than being sorry – it means turning around, changing. A Christian is someone who has changed direction. Come to think of it, Christians should take to change as ducks to water!
The fact is that change is necessary for survival. We see that in the modern world of work. A business which turns its back on change will go to the wall. Some years ago a book was published entitled In Search of Excellence. Its authors, Peters & Waterman, analysed forty-three of America’s best-run companies, like IBM & 3M. But two years after publication fourteen of them were in financial trouble. According to the American magazine, Business Week, this was due to “failure to react and respond to change”
What is true of the world of business also true of the church. Churches which fail to adapt to changes in society, will go to the wall. Churches which do not change, will become like the dinosaurs of old and will simply not survive. There is real truth in the quip that the seven last words of the church are: “We’ve never done it that way before”. As a church we have to be constantly embracing change – change in terms of our worship patters, change in terms of our evangelistic methods, change in terms of how we use our building. Only in this way can we become effective in making disciples for Jesus Christ.
Let my final thought be that change is necessary for survival in the spiritual world. John in his Gospel records Jesus saying to Nicodemus: “You must be born again” (John 3.3). Now Nicodemus was a religious man. As a Pharisee he belonged to a crack spiritual elite. Yet Jesus made it clear that even religious people have to change. CS Lewis put it this way:
We’re like eggs at present. And you can’t go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
People who refuse to change direction and go Christ’s way, will also fail to survive. That’s a thought!