The President-elect has promised us that “change is coming.” In some ways, that might be good, but not all change is good. Change for the sake of change is not good; change because change is needed and necessitated is good.
Nationally, we need some change. Wall Street has been more like a back alley with drug dealers making quick bucks than a business handling the investments of hardworking people. Politics needs to change. Democrats and Republicans alike are self-absorbed. They don’t do what’s in the best interest of the country; they do what’s in their best interest. We are insane if we think the same old political cronies are going to produce real change. It’s the clowns in Congress who allowed the legislation that got us in this mess. I’m for change—make the Representatives and Senators live in their districts face the music every week for the constituency that elected them. The car companies need to change. The unions have destroyed the free enterprise system, and we are paying people not to work. Unions have set up their own welfare system within the auto industry. That needs to change.
Churches need to change. Churches obsessed with business meetings or run by a few families need to go out of business. Churches that treat pastors like slave labor need to close their doors. Communities would be healthier if about half of the churches were shut down or combined to make vital, stronger churches. We don’t need a church on every corner. We need churches that are more committed to the four corners of the earth than their corner on the pew.
Denominations need to change. We are losing a younger generation because we aren’t listening and leading. The younger preachers flock to conferences that lack balance and do little to encourage biblical preaching. Why? Because the majority of mainline denominations don’t have a clue what’s going on in the pew. The ivory castle is no place to figure out what is needed. Jesus walked among the people; He didn’t sit in an office removed from them.
There has been much debate in my denomination about the name of the Cooperative Program. I believe that program is a solid way to join together in a common cause and mission. It was right to change the name of the Foreign Mission Board to the International Mission Board. It was right to change the name of the Home Mission Board to the North American Mission Board. It was right to change the name of the Baptist Sunday School Board to LifeWay. So what’s the problem with changing the name of the Cooperative Program?
I know of meetings where men have dug in their heels on changing this name. They refuse to think of Kingdom business. They are more stuck on two antiquated words than a name that will (a) continue to emphasize CP giving and (b) get the attention of a younger generation that thinks in missional, kingdom terms. Of course, they would rather let the funding die and ministries cease than do anything about increasing our giving to missions. The change that needs to come is (a) in the name and (b) in anyone who wants to hold on to a name for a name’s sake.
Change is not the same old thing with a new label. Baptists are notorious for changing the label on the same old product. We use to have BYU on Sunday nights, and then it was Training Union, then Church Training, then Discipleship Training. The problem was never the name. The problem was that we weren’t doing a good job of training and discipling. Call it Bible Study, Sunday School, Small Groups or Cell Groups—the key is the leader’s commitment to the purpose of the event and process.
Churches have to be willing to change. We’ve changed a lot at Sherwood in my nearly twenty years here. When I came, we were King James only, women couldn’t wear pants, and Scofield was as sacred as Saint Paul. Today, nothing has changed theologically, but we wouldn’t be the church we are today if we had not changed.
We changed the music, but not the message. We changed the translation we use, but not the commitment to inerrancy. We changed the way we do ministry, from committees and deacons running the church to Pastor-led. The result? Over 5,000 people have joined in the last twenty years. With the declining population of our area, it is a God thing that we are growing.
What if we had stayed the same? One, a lot of folks who left would have been happy. They would still be large and in charge. Two, we wouldn’t be making movies. We wouldn’t have a Sports Park. We wouldn’t be an integrated church like we are with people from nearly a dozen nations. We wouldn’t be reaching people in 29 surrounding communities. Three, we wouldn’t be “anchored to the rock and geared to the times.”
We must be consistent and at the same time changing. One day, we may not be in the movie business anymore. I don’t foresee that day coming soon, but if it does, God has something else for us. We need to be constantly thinking, “How do we keep the vision of ‘reaching the world from Albany, Georgia’ when we are aiming at a moving target?” The methods must never become sacred. The message must always be essential.
Paul was willing to become all things to all men that he might save a few. Paul never compromised the gospel, but he did whatever it took to carry the gospel to others. Will you join me in praying that God will continually use us in a changing world to change lives and the culture? Let’s pray we never get stuck in our ways or preferences. Let’s ask God to make us fluid in our thinking, while at the same time fixed on the cross.
Copyright 2009, Michael Catt