Six little letters that have become so prominent in our culture, C-H-A-N-G-E.
Years ago corporate managers began to teach their employees that change was a good thing. The employees understood that this probably meant layoffs and reassignments were just around the corner. Our recent presidential campaign featured the word from both candidates while the winner was seen by both supporters and opponents as the one to bring the most change to the national political scene. Even within the church we have some who preach change, change, change as the way toward better evangelism and church growth.
Change is almost always at least a little scary. We are not sure what lies ahead and whether some new system or new person will really perform the way we think they should. In spiritual matters change is doubly concerning because we also want to make sure God approves of any change that we create.
Change itself is neither good nor bad. It is the nature of the change that demands caution. As an example, the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo changed forever the prospect of cheap gasoline and forced us to rethink the design of our automobiles. That has re-design has proven to be useful. Change occurs in the Bible too for good and ill. One of the greatest changes for good came in the persecutor Saul (Acts 9:17-19; c.f. 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13, Philippians 3:6). Bad changes are noted too such as the shift from glorifying God the Creator to glorifying the creation (Romans 1:25); an attempt to change worship in the tabernacle (Leviticus 10:1, 2) and an attempt to change the Lord’s Supper into something not intended (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). Change can be good but is often sinful because it changes that which God has not changed.
The question that is most important to faithful Christians is whether change in the church is good or bad. The question is answered simply that it depends on the nature of the change. God has left certain things unstated in Scripture. For example, meeting locations, times of worship, number of services on the Lord’s day, order of worship, Bible translations and styles of preaching are left largely to local elderships within broad parameters. One might question the wisdom or expediency of having a single Sunday service at 5 AM each week but one could not declare it a breach of Scripture because it is never addressed. In these broad areas, and there are more, we ought display great love and liberty.
But there are brethren who have a single minded intent to change the fundamental aspects of worship which have been set by God. Some 25 years ago a faithful devout brother in Tennessee began to slowly change some items which most would consider in the realm of expediency. That brother never stopped and today the church where he worshipped bears little resemblance to the church of the first century. They have gone beyond (1 John 9) God’s authorized worship and introduced mechanical instruments into the worship, they have change the meeting times and times for communion to weeknights instead of the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Even now they practice “open fellowship” among the denominations accepting their members even though they were never baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-7). These are change agents and must be opposed with all of our strength.
What are Christians to do? We cannot oppose change agents apart from a knowledge of truth. Their greatest weapon is ignorance. By knowing the Scriptures we can withstand these traitorous people and defend truth. We must pray intently for elderships that they be strong enough to withstand the attacks of the change agents. They must be willing to mark those that cause divisions and who teach contrary to God’s revealed will (Romans 16:17).
The church of my Lord is perfect. Sometimes, problems arise with members in the church but the church itself, that is, in its design, purpose and intended worship, is pristine. As members of that church we must struggle against those who would destroy her beauty and exchange it for something of their own making.