Summary: Revised from an earlier message for a church making a major turn in direction and leadership. Change is hard for us, for some of us fear change, some of us do not think change is real. But God is able and willing to complete what He begins among us.
Bethesda First Baptist Church, Bethesda, MD, September 19, 2004
Will anything really change? I mean, really?! So often change is only apparent, and not real. So often we tinker with things, but we do not really change them. We lack the will to change things, really. We lack the imagination to change them very much. And so beneath the appearance of change, cosmetics, so much in life remains unchanged at its heart.
You are coming to a new time in the life of your church. I do not pretend to know all that is involved in it. I have not been exposed to the history of your congregation, nor have I been privy to the proposals that are to be placed before you today. As an outsider I would not think it appropriate for me to comment on any of that. But as a preacher of the good news, I can raise one key question: as you consider your future, will anything that matters really change? Will the church adjust to its new situation and be different from what it is now? Do we expect that new leadership and new faces will give us new vision and new direction? Or do we think that, really, there is nothing anyone can do, it’s all winding down, and nothing will really change? Will we suddenly start to do better than we have been doing lately?
The evidence is not too persuasive at this moment: my doctor says I need to watch my diet and get that cholesterol down, cut down on the red meat. But the other day, seems that old car of mine, out of habit, turned itself right into the McDonald’s drive-through and, before I knew it, a couple of double cheeseburgers were right in these hot little hands! How did that happen? Can’t figure it out. Must be a case of “Mad Car Disease”!
No, you know the issue. You understand the problem. We get into patterns and we don’t easily get out. We get set in our habits and we do not do what it takes to move beyond. We promise ourselves that we will do better with our health, with our work habits, with our relationships, with our prayer life, with our worship attendance, with all sorts of things. But before the hurricanes of September have drifted into the golden glow of October, we too have drifted. We have drifted from high resolves back to deeply entrenched habits. We do not easily change.
And so my question again. Will anything in the life of this church really change? Will anything that matters be different with a new leadership team? I want to mention two different approaches to the issue of change. I want to lift up two ways in which we deal with this matter of change. But I also want to show you how, in the providence of God, we can do far more than either one of these approaches permits.
First, I want to speak about those who fear change and resist it. Then I want to speak about those who do not even believe that real change is possible. But finally I want to proclaim the good news about the opportunity that the Lord gives us to turn change to our advantage. I want you to hear good news this morning – that whether you fear change or disbelieve change, God is able. God is able to work through all that is coming and, as the psalmist says, to dig our feet out of the miry clay and set them up on higher ground. God is able to turn change into victory.
First, would you agree with me that some of us fear change? Some of us resist change. There are some folks who will stick with something that isn’t working, no matter how bad it is, but the devil they have seems better than the demon that may be out there, and so they stay put. They stay in a bad job. They live in an impossible house. They dabble at a hopeless relationship. They refuse to change.
My wife and I have a few dollars in the stock market. Back in the bubble years we bought a couple of stocks whose bubble burst with a splash. My wife and my son have been saying, “Dump those dogs.” But I have hung on and hung on, hoping that by some miracle they would go back up. It has taken more than three years for them to persuade me to realize I was into something that was not going to get better. But I just do not like change.
But the problem is that life is not that simple, and change is going to come anyway. Something is going to interrupt our neat plans and force us to change. And if we do nothing but cringe in fear, we will not be well prepared when change is forced on us.