“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”—Hebrews 13:8
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this wonderful verse wielded as a weapon, a sort of catch-all against any change in the Church or its members. As though because Jesus is changeless, the Church should be too.
But if the Church is changeless, then Jesus can’t be. Because Jesus Christ came into the world to “seek out and save the lost,” to call sinners to repentance, to ask us to change–daily! If we (and the Church made up of sinners like us) stop changing, then Jesus has changed–the One who is eternally the same, persistently calling us to be ever more like him, ever different than we were yesterday, ever open to the moving of the Spirit–can only let us stop changing if he changes. But he doesn’t. And that’s good news–because it means we can change, even when we’re not particularly excited about it.
It’s no revelation that the pace of change continues to accelerate. That’s threatening to some of us most of the time, and to all of us at least once in a while. Who can keep up? When things change so fast, there is less and less that we feel in control of, less that we can count on, less we can cling to for security. The world shrinks and intrudes ever more into our lives. There’s no keeping it out! Only a few decades ago, we (or at least we who were not marginalized by our race or income level) could easily control what media came into our homes, where our children went to school, how our medical care was handled, whom we let into our neighborhoods, who got to see our personal information . . . the list is long. Our control over such things is diminished or lost altogether. We can argue over whether that’s good or bad, but regardless, it’s real.
There is however one place where we can continue to exert a great deal of influence, even control. Our congregation. That’s a blessing. And a curse.
If we show up with enough enthusiasm, trust and relationships, we can move a whole congregation into new mission and ministries. If we use just the right threats, talk to just the right people, say just the right things, we can put a stop to just about anything–especially change. Change just for the sake of change is foolish. Opposing change only because it’s change is more foolish still. But we cannot not change. Where would be the faith in that?
How is change handled in your community? Is it discussed, avoided, feared, embraced? How can we call on the Christ who is indeed the same yesterday and today and forever–to make sure that we aren’t the same but are ever deepening our faith and growing our witness?