FROM THE PASTOR
Change is good. Change can even be wonderful. Take for instance a child trapped in a wet, dirty diaper. Now, that is a situation that cries out for change. Change is a necessary part of growth and development. The preteen who does not change in harmony with her peers lives with terrible anxiety and self-doubt. She can’t change fast enough. Change is also necessary for progress. It is the only possible way to get from point A to point B.
Change is a sign of, and a natural part of life. A rock does not change much over decades. On the other hand, a seed changes into a shoot, and then into a mature plant in a matter of weeks. A rock and a seed are both hard, dark, and round, but the seed contains life and the rock doesn’t. Life and change always go together. We would know that something was seriously wrong if our newborn child did not begin to change rapidly. Change is the only way to improvement. No matter how good a situation might be, it cannot improve if it does not change.
A big problem is, that over time, we discover that not all change is good. Deterioration is also change. When things are not changing for the better, they can change for the worse. We learn this lesson about the time we reach full maturity. For years we have been excited about growing older. Suddenly we find that growth in the wrong areas is something we have to fight. We begin to distrust change. Instead of reaching ahead to our next birthday, we begin to cling to the past one. The young count half and three quarter birthdays, while the mature hang onto the last one as long as possible. In general, the young crave change, but the mature fear it.
A danger is letting this negative attitude toward change dominate our lives. When we spend all our time fighting change, we begin dying rather than living. When we work to restrict change, we limit our vitality. It is okay to want to limit change after we have discovered its risks, but we must not become the enemy of change. Fear of change strangles out the very life that we are trying to protect. So, we need to embrace change at every stage of life. A new interest, a new challenge or new relationship are all ways to stimulate vitality until the very end of our days. Even the chronically ill need therapeutic change to prevent atrophy.
What is true about people is also true about churches. The longer they have been around, the harder it is for them to change. Old experiences become habits. Old successes become divine standards. There is the temptation to live in some idealized past. The phrase, “We never did it that way before,” only shows up in congregations that have been around for a while. This is why many young pastors would rather start a new church than take over the leadership of an old one. A baby church will change and adapt much like a baby person will. A church can suffer atrophy just like a person.
I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet. I do not know what we will face in 2024. It may be a wonderful year of peace and joy. We may experience blessings beyond our imagination. On the other hand, it may be a hard year of turmoil and uncertainty. There is very little that we can do to control world events. Even the powerful people who run our government do not have the control that they imagine. The year stands before us, new and unknown
I do know one thing for certain about the new year. It will require each of us to change. Good or bad, the year will challenge us to adapt to the situations we face. Old ways may continue to work beautifully for many things. But new ways will be required to respond to new opportunities and challenges. As individuals and as a group we need to be ready to change. It’s okay to want limited change. But remember, change is good. It can even be wonderful.