“Don’t long for ‘the good old days’. This is not wise.” – Ecclesiastes 7:10, NLT
“Do not say, “Why is it that the earlier days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. – Ecclesiastes 7:10, Baker OT Commentary
The way we see the past, the present and the future determines our willingness to change as a church under God’s leading.
Living in the past
It is possible to live one’s Christian life in the past, seeing the ‘good old days’ of both church life and personal spiritual growth as twenty or fifty years before.
In reality this may simply be an admittance that we’re more comfortable with a 1990s or 1960s style of church rather than the present, and that we made more effort to grow in our relationship with God in those days.
Equally, it is possible to live one’s Christian life in the present but without any vision for or even willingness to embrace the future God wants.
If we’re honest, none of us really likes change. Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown. Perhaps it is the perceived benefit of cautious safety, a bird in Cambray’s hand, we think, must be better than two or three in the bush.
Perhaps there is comfort in keeping things as they are, as with undecided voters in general elections having a greater tendency, when they enter the polling booths, to maintain the status quo.
Afterall, it could be said that in a church context people join because they like things the way they are now, rather than the way they could be in the future.
Bent out of shape
However, both living in the past and not embracing the future bends us out of the shape God wants us to be to extend his Kingdom.
When this happens, our consumerist comforts become more important than Kingdom priorities. We may react angrily when someone challenges our current thinking because our personal preferences have somehow become sacred.
If you’re anything like me, it can manifest in the attitude that says: I like certain ministries with certain activities that meet on a certain day of the week. I like certain songs with a certain tune, sung at a certain volume played in a certain key at a certain speed. I like certain teachings around certain passages that say certain things I am certain I can be happy with.
Deep down, I know that new things make me uncomfortable. New things require me to give up control. New things make me change. New things force me to become a new person in a new way.
The new calls for the new
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” – Mark 2:22, NLT
Even as the new covenant requires a new way of understanding to embrace it, so any change requires a modification in our thinking and deeply-seated attitudes as a church, if we want to embrace what God has for us.
This may mean putting some personal preferences down that we hold sacred. This may mean reconfiguring our view of church – from provider of spiritual ‘services’ to a disciple-making community.
This may mean changing how we see Sunday gatherings – is it the spiritual equivalent of a weekly trip to the cinema or is it akin to half-time oranges and a team talk for a football team?
There is a cost involved to change. Yet, by the grace of God, there is also a reward when it is Kingdom change. Change is hard at first, messy in the middle but it is wonderful at the end.
So as the pastors and deacons navigate the church through a review process, each of us does well to examine our attitude towards change.
We are being asked to embrace new ways to communicate the unchanging truth of God’s Word, new ideas in discipleship, new styles and new people becoming part of our community, as we seek God for his plan for Cambray.
Will you join the pastors and deacons with eager expectation for what God has in store?