Pastor and writer Doug Pagitt has commented, “God is never finished with creation, and God is never finished with us.” The same is certainly true for the church. As we reflect on the church, its beliefs, and its practices over the last two thousand years, the developing and changing nature of the church is certainly clear.
In his sermon yesterday morning, Mike Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, pointed out the dynamic, changing nature of the church. He explained that a church that is truly alive is always changing and never achieves a final form. So what does this mean for us?
First, don’t get too comfortable. Just when we think we have found the best and most effective way to practice “church,” something will come along to upset the equilibrium—human need, culture, or new technology. Very often, I will hear people say. “Things got worse for the church [the Southern Baptist version anyway] when we lost Discipleship Training (or Training Union or Baptist Young People’s Union).” Of course, they fail to realize that the church got along without this form of spiritual formation for 1900 years.
Second, don’t hang onto things once their time is past. Edwards Deming once said something to the effect that “yesterday’s solution is today’s problem.” Creativity has a short shelf life. Basic concepts may not change but the ways in which they are implemented do. The best lesson that a trapeze artist learns is when to let go of one trapeze and grasp another.
Third, be prepared for conflict and confusion when things change. One organizational guru said, “It’s not that people don’t like the change; they just do want to BE changed.” The discomfort that comes with changing the way we do things is not welcomed by anyone, but the consequences can be rewarding. Bringing a new baby into your home will permanently change your life, but you certainly understand the long-term rewards that come from this change!
Fourth, listen for the voice of God. Mike Smith said yesterday, “The church is sustained by the presence and power of God.” The church is also moved to act by the voice of God. We hear the voice of God in church members who express unmet need, in the challenges our external community throws our way, and in the quiet moments at night when we just can’t sleep because some burden is on our hearts.
God is not finished with the church yet. I find that rather encouraging.