03 October 2009

Why Change?

Being in my home town has its advantages. The biggest one is that I know where to go and what there is to do. A few days ago I went to a park that I have been going to for years. It was a beautiful, sunny day outside and I thought it would be nice to go outside to read. When I arrived at the park I walked around for a while then headed to my favorite reading bench. It sits in the main part of the park on a little island in the creek that runs through the park. When I came around the bend I saw that it was occupied. My heart sank. What was I to do? I can't just change reading benches! can I?

At this moment I realized something, I don't like change. I'm a traditional guy. If it works, why fix it. Let me give you some examples- this very park use to have this awesome triple decker rocket ship to play on- it's now gone- I don't like that. The old Tiger stadium was replaced by a new and more luxurious Comerica Park- I don't like that. Baseball changed the pennant race to a two round play off system complete with wild card teams- I don't like that. Hockey changed rules to protect the goalie and took away the two line pass- I don't like that. My favorite coffee shop that I have been going to for over a decade is still in business and still brews amazing coffee- I do like that. The bench I like to read in the park is still here after decades- I really like that. You see, I love when things stay the same and I resist change. I understand the need for change, but I still don't like it.

Here's what I understand about change. The park people took the rocket ship out to build newer and safer stuff for the kids to play on. The Tigers built a new stadium with hopes of generating more money and bringing more people to the games. Baseball changed the pennant race to accommodate an expanding league and to generate more post season income for playoff teams. Hockey changed its rules to protect players and to help speed up the excitement of the game. Change makes sense in my head, but my heart doesn't like it. Our society is constantly saying "out with the old, in with the new". We live in a time when the quickest to change is the one who stands to make the most money. It seems we can't change fast enough.

Ironically, I feel completely the opposite when it comes to the church. I am drawn to churches that break away from tradition and start something new. I love ministries that think outside the box and reach people where they are. When we talk about church traditions I cringe. I am reminded of the scripture where Jesus says that our traditions, the traditions of men, make the Word of God powerless. It saddens me to see churches put more emphasis on tradition than they do in the love of Christ. Churches that once had thriving congregations are now reduced to a mere shadow of their former existence. All because of a refusal to change with the times. There is this strong misconception that if you change with the times you have to change your message or water down the Gospel. This couldn't be further from the truth. I recently heard a pastor say that you need to keep the same message, but change the package. It's like you changing your wardrobe to fit the current style, but you on the inside are still the same. I believe this is true for the church. In our lightning fast society that is ever pushing the speed envelope with faster food, faster computers, faster internet, and faster ways to shop. With these constant changes in our society, it is increasingly important for the church to change as well.

Have you ever seen a cereal box from the 1950's? Compare it to the same cereal box today and you'll see a radically transformed package that fits today's advertising trends with the same product on the inside. The Bible is as relevant today as it ever has been, but if we don't change the packaging we aren't going to be effective in today's society. People need the Gospel of Jesus. They need us to reach out to them in a way that speaks to them. At one time "turn and burn" may have had some results, but love always prevails. Showing people guilt through sin may have worked in days past, but today people need to know that Jesus loves them more than He despises their sin. I once read a witnessing survey that asked this question:

What do people need most today?

a) time

b) money

c) love

d) other

It amazed me to hear peoples responses. Money and time easily topped the opinion poll. The fact is that money, time, or whatever else people are focused on are things they use to fill the hole that love should fill. They are only surface issues that point to a deeper root problem. Just like trying to get rid of weeds in your lawn, if you only deal with the surface issue and pull the weed then it will grow back every time. If you go after the root of the weed you can stop the weed from returning. If we want to see change in our society and in our world we need to get to the root of people's problems. We need to show people what is really missing in their life. I know Christianity has done some stupid stuff in the past in the name of God, and I'm sorry for that. If you have been hurt by a Christian who wasn't walking in love I apologize. Jesus told us what the greatest commandments are- love God- love others. Do you see the common word between the two? It's love. If Christians live those two commandments to a radical extent I believe we will see results that far out weigh what any law can do.

What it comes down to in the end is this- if the church doesn't change its packaging and it doesn't love people where they are it will fade out. A church can change its packaging, but if it does it for any reason other than love it still fails. Be challenged today to show radical love to those around you. Step outside your comfort zone and love the unlovable. Give those without hope a reason to be. This is what I thought about today when my reading bench was occupied.

How do you feel about change? Does change scare the bejeezies out of you too?

Oh yeah! I ended up getting the bench and reading my book. What an awesome day!

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