Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chafing at the Challenges of Change

Change can be a hard thing. A very hard thing. Whether it’s changing systems for doing things in a business, abandoning long-standing traditions, seeing children grow independent, or embracing the latest technological advances (my personal favorite), it’s often difficult. Many of us find comfort in the tried and true and familiar, reluctant to release the old and embrace the new.

The prospect of "new," requiring change
can be exciting - or frightening.
I felt that way before transitioning from an electric typewriter to a desktop computer a few decades ago. I had shifted from a manual typewriter years earlier, but moving to a computer seemed like a quantum leap. (A leap I celebrated almost immediately.) Then came the time to abandon my film camera for a digital version, another major adjustment that within a very short time had me wondering, “Why did I take so long to do this?” Once I had made these changes, there was no hesitation, no looking back.

Over time even changes can become entrenched, resistant to further change. Take, for example, the Sunday night church service. When a question is raised about when it was started, a number of answers have been suggested, but apparently one reason was a very practical one. In the mid-1800s, when gaslights were nearly universal, electric lights were rare. Some churches, attempting to appeal to people that didn’t attend church, decided to invest in electric lighting as a way of attracting the curious – and hopefully seeing them return on a regular basis.

Sunday school is another change that over time became institutionalized. In 1780, a fellow named Robert Railey in London, England had become burdened for the welfare of impoverished, illiterate children. Seeking to provide help in educating them, Railey enlisted the aid of a number of women to teach reading to these youngsters on Sunday mornings – creating a “Sunday school,” using the Bible as the text.

Before long, 100 children were attending the weekly reading classes, and when other Sunday schools were established, that number swelled into the thousands. By 1831, it’s reported more than one million children were being taught to read – and learning about God in the process – through these innovative schools.

Today, of course, much of that history has become forgotten, with Sunday night services and Sunday school becoming fixtures in many churches large and small. To suggest abandoning them in many congregations would seem tantamount to heresy. “Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible, ‘Go therefore and attend Sunday night worship services and Sunday school’? Maybe in 2 Babylonians, or the book of Hezekiah?”

That’s not to speak ill of these and many other well-intended, firmly established practices aimed at edifying and equipping the faithful. But as has been observed more than once, it sometimes seems the seven last words of many churches have been, “We’ve never done it that way before!” Why experiment with something new, innovative and unfamiliar when we’re so comfortable with “business as usual”?

Maybe we should because, as Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Just as summer turns into fall, and then to winter, before completing the cycle to spring, seasons for everything come and go. There’s value in periodically pausing to re-evaluate anything we’re doing. Maybe they’re fine as they are; maybe they could stand a bit of tweaking; or maybe they’ve outlived their usefulness. How will we know unless we take the time to regroup and reconsider our what’s and how’s and why’s?

In Isaiah 43:18-19 God declares, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

And speaking of followers of Christ, the Bible declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even God knows when it’s time for a change, when out with the old and in with the new should be the order of the day.

So while change sometimes seems daunting, often it proves to be the best thing that could have ever happened. So if you’re chafing at the prospect of some kind of major change, fearing it could be too great a challenge, at least give it serious consideration before discarding the idea. Who knows? God just might be initiating a new thing in your life.

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