I have been thinking about change lately. What does it take to do or see things differently? A few weeks ago I was visiting with a pastor. The conversation turned towards change. Specifically how does a church change? Even simple things like changing where someone sits or what time the service begins is almost an impossible task. If given a choice most want things to stay the same. After all, change is stressful and the status quo is predictable.
Near the end of our conversation my friend talked about the DNA of institutions, organizations, and churches. All of these groups are created with a particular DNA, and even if all the founders are no longer around the DNA of the groups continues. These founding structures, policies, and traditions provide stability. This stability creates a culture that new members must adjust to. In churches this manifests publically with a particular style of worship, preaching, and pot-lucks. At an unspoken level the organizational DNA creates litmus tests for who can and cannot be in leadership. Again all of this creates stability, predictability, and tradition.
Nothing stays the same forever. Being able to adapt and change is critical to survival. Change is one of those things that will happen. It can be healthy or unhealthy; slow or quick; forced or chosen. Regardless, change will happen.
How change happens is an issue that impacts all of us.
How do we help churches to open themselves to new traditions and let go of old ways of doing things? For many in the church the faith traditions that have been developed over time have been valuable, enriching, and formative. Can we allow something new to emerge that will be valuable, enriching, and formative to a new generation of church goers?
Lately many of us have been confronted with the Black Lives Matter movement. Some people of privilege respond with “all lives matter.” I suspect that much of this response exists to lessen the sting of the injustice that this movement is confronting. Black Lives Matter has never been a about the lack of value in the lives of other people, including the police and my children. It is a movement that asks us to change, to change how we see and value the lives of our black brothers and sisters. To value them as much as we value the lives of our own family members and the people called to protect us on a daily basis.
The ability to change, whether that is how we worship or how we view those who are different is what makes us human. Change is what leads to compassion and empathy. Change is what can make the world a better place.
I am tired of people of faith who use Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever…” as an excuse not to change their world view. More of us need to spend time reflecting on what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:9, “For we know only in part…” As we learn to own this, we will find the courage to change, to make the world a better place.