Change isn’t an option, especially in this era. It’s constant & challenging. The rapid pace of change is tough even on those who don’t mind change. Change can be good or bad. The Christian life is about good change–transformation. We change our beliefs & behaviors. We’re on a never-ending journey of being changed by Jesus more & more to become like Him. Growth requires change. God’s promise in the Old Testament was: “I will do a new thing” (Is. 43:19). Sure enough, Jesus brought us a New Testament (covenant), a new commandment, made us new creations with a new heart & spirit. He talked about new wine & the new wineskins needed for it.
But when it comes to the Church, change isn’t always good. In the drive for “new,” churches can slip into the idea that “new & improved” means better, or “the newer, the truer.” Some of the new things that have been brought into the Church over the past few decades have been positive. I was a part of that whole movement since the late 80’s to make the church more contemporary & “relevant” for today. But some changes have included destructive doctrines & worldly pragmatism. Just because something seems to “work” doesn’t make it good. For some it’s a well-intentioned effort to remain “relevant,” but for others it’s been a surrender to the spirit of the age. This is why God also warns: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).
We find wisdom in the past. We find comfort in routine. Should we chuck all of that in the quest for contemporary relevance? In this fast-paced society of change, Church is the one “place” people have counted on for stability & familiarity. Yet, there’s no real virtue either in clinging blindly to antiquated traditions & methods if they stand in the way of the mission or spiritual growth. Church leaders can find navigating this balance difficult as we attempt to restore the faith & practices of the New Testament Church for today. What we’re called to do is to hold on to the changeless Message in a changing world. The Lord doesn’t change, & the truth is solid, not shifting. Scripture gives us principles & precedents we are to follow while allowing liberty in areas where it remains silent. So we’re not called to be traditional or trendy, just true! Sometimes that can even mean returning to the ways of the past–what’s old becomes new again.
Southpoint will be going through another season of concentrated change ahead. Here at the front end of our 4th decade, we’re returning to being 1 church in 1 location. Next month we’ll have a new logo, mission statement, website, strategies, signage, leaders, classes, & more with the intent to refresh & re-focus on the mission. It seems about every 10 years or so, we go through a makeover because it’s almost like a whole new church with the constant turnover in people departing & new people arriving. Over the last decade, the culture has changed dramatically, our region has changed, & our church has changed significantly.
So with all these changes, I want to remind you that Jesus doesn’t build His Church through our so-called “vision statements,” marketing strategies, or hip gimmicks. We don’t need a new “vision”–Jesus has already given us that in the Great Commission to make disciples. There’s nothing wrong with updating the ways we use to reach the culture better (musical styles, facility decor, online communication, etc.). But the truth doesn’t need updating, & the quest for relevance can lead to a dark place.
Some may think we’re changing things up too much. Seemingly good excuses can be offered for resisting change to mask the negative feelings of losing what’s familiar, comfortable, & preferable to me. Others though may be frustrated that we’re not changing enough to keep up with the times & be relevant to whatever the current generation is. It’s humorous now how so much emphasis was being placed on reaching “baby boomers & gen x” back when I started the church–they were the younger adults of that era! But we can’t make assumptions about the best way to reach people based on lumping them together based on the year they were born. People are still people with individual needs, worries & fears–& they all need the Gospel!
What we hope is that by letting go of some familiar things & embracing some new ones, we’ll remain biblical & balanced between what is tried & what is of today. No matter what the changes externally in the world, or internally, we’ll hold fast to Christ, His Word, & His mission–loving & reaching the lost, & teaching the Word to ground people in sound doctrine for Christ-centered lives. That’s something you can count on.