Saturday, March 29, 2008

Is Change Like Castor Oil?

About a lifetime ago, back in the early 80's, God called me to a specific ministry. I grunted, moaned, kicked my feet, and went into a childlike tantrum over several months. Some are called to preach, others to teach, some to provide pastoral care like no one else, but I was called to be a "Change Agent".

I can't remember when I heard the term Change Agent for the first time, but it was after God called me to do the work. I knew who I was, whom I belonged to, but not that I was called anything in particular. When a tag was put on what I do, I knew that was me. I remember saying to myself, "Is that what I'm called?"

Change Agents can be scary people. We define what is going on, devise a plan to improve it, and then set about implementing the plan over a period of time. It usually involves change and most of us do not like anything about our lives messed with, or changed.

I began reading a book about five years ago. It was entitled How To Change Your Church (without killing it) by Alan Nelson and Gene Appel. Little did I know how much my life would change in the next 30 days. I got as far as page 130 of the 329 page book. I think I will start reading it again.

Change means to cause to turn or pass from one state to another; to vary in form or essence; to alter or make different.

The authors of How To Change Your Church tell us that pure status quo is a myth. If everything around us is changing, even when we think we are staying the same; as people evolve, we may no longer be in tune with them and are likewise changing in a way that might be more difficult to reach them.

On my birthday the other day, my pastor gave me a printout of what took place on my day of birth. I'm sure you have seen some of these. Allow me to show you some 1945 prices:
Bread: $0.09/loaf Milk: $0.62/gal.
Eggs: $0.64/doz. Gas: $0.21/gal.
Car: $1,250 House: $10,131
Stamp: $0.03/ea. Average Income: $2,807/yr.
Minimum Wage: $0.40/hr. DOW Average: 193

I think you would agree that there have been substantial changes during our lifetimes. I remember paying around $0.21/gal for gasoline while I was in college and during gas wars it even got less. I remember paying about $2,800 for my first new car in 1972. I remember paying $18,000 for the first new home that I built around the same time. Obviously massive
changes took place following the mid 70's.

I remember back in the late 80's that there seemed to be a new trend taking place in church music around the country. There was an emerging movement toward contemporary Christian music and away from the old gospel hymns. Now, just stating this trend opens up a whole can of worms, but my point is that some people thought it would never come to their church. It is one area of change that they could never visualize. By the 90's change was on the horizon, if not taking over like a tsunami and by 2000 music had really changed.

Nelson and Appel tell us that "All churches either change to continue prevailing or they change by becoming irrelevant to people and eventually disappear."

The Barna Research Group has revealed a staggering fact: "Most people who come to Christ in American churches leave within the first eight weeks." This is one of the most startling facts that you will probably read this week. Barna goes on to say, "The faith of most people in the United States who claim to be Christians is shallow and not very significant in terms of impacting their behaviors." Now imagine, if long-term Christians have a shallow faith over-all, what kind of shape is that new believer in? I think he is ready to dig, if we will give him the tools!

Lots of life-change has gone on. Where we live is not the same as it was even 25 years ago. Yet, the people around us have the same needs. They need Christ and they need to be discipled. Isn't it time that we change clothes and do something different than what we've been doing? It hasn't worked has it? Obviously NOT.

Our methodology needs to change in 2008, but the gospel never needs to be compromised. If we can deal and struggle with that, then maybe we can get out of our comfortable cubicles and really change lives for the sake of Christ.

1 comment:

Heather Z said...

Great post, Mike!