No perspective is definitively wrong or right, each is just a perspective. But each also reflects a thoughtful consideration of the challenge of change: now, what's your perspective?
My reading this morning was from 1 Samuel Chapter 4 where the Israelites made the mistake of treating the presence of the ark (not Noah’s boat but the sacred box carrying the tablets of the law) as a guarantee of God’s blessing. It was an easy mistake to make because previously when they carried the ark into battle they had spectacular victories. The lesson was clear: sacred objects do not guarantee the Lord’s presence.
The Bible reading notes amplified this by saying correct theology also does not guarantee the Lord’s blessing. As I reflected on this I realized the danger of relying on something that worked in the past to guarantee God’s blessing.
Before I go any further let me say that correct theology is important. So are a whole lot of other things we do in church or in the community around the church, such as good sermons, good worship, good social events, good methods of outreach and evangelism.
The danger is in thinking that because it worked in the past it will automatically work in the future
So there is a sensitivity needed here. It would be foolish in my opinion to say for instance that the Alpha Course worked last year but let’s try something new this year when God is longing for us to use Alpha.
But if we only use what has worked in the past we will miss what God is doing today and yesterday’s blessing could become today’s outdated tradition.
Do we need change? If God is asking, then of course.
Can we change without unanimity? Of course. We can self destruct in conflict … that's still change.
The point is, do we need unanimity before we undertake God's change?
Our challenge is to be courageous and honest enough to ask:
This is the difference between being a fan of God, or a follower of God.
If you're a fan of God, then the pleasant trappings of the fan club, the club logo, the club traditions, the club songs, the club social culture ... these are what are important to you. If you're a follower of God, then these same things are at best distractions, and at worst a hindrance.
I want to follow Jesus. And I am willing to let him set the agenda. When He called the disciples and said "follow me", He did not give them a safe social context. The disciples did not know they would have to go find a donkey, stay up late at night, be intellectually challenged, face hostility, act in faith when their best intuition said otherwise, and discover their own little community in conflict with one another!
Is it any different for us? Like to all who Jesus says "follow me", He's asking you and I to follow despite what we want. I'm not sure I'm brave enough, but I'll trust Him for the courage.
Change for some people is particularly difficult… so I doubt, in the church context, if all people would agree with all suggested changes.
But my experience thus far at StB is that there is a high level of openness to change amongst the leadership team. There is an openness to making innovative changes… and the grace to acknowledge that, at times, we may not get it exactly right.
Consider changes made in the last 24 months…
This website forum has grown and evolved… and judging by the increased volume visiting the site, the changes made have been most welcomed.
We have welcomed Stephen Middelkoop onto the team. His style is different to Brian’s Hill’s teaching style… but diversity is good.
We now include a rich mix of visual material into our Sunday worship experience. This is certainly different to what was done before… but has been well received.
The church is even using an “electronic sign” to project ministry and important messages to the surrounding community. This is another change brought about by giving prayerful consideration to new ways of doing things.
Our worship teams are unique… and different in the ways they lead worship, which leads to a rich diversity. This morning our worship leader read a creative poem, which is another new form of expression not recently seen.
Finally in the 8:30 service we are trying to introduce backing music when no musician is available. Sometimes it has worked very well… other times we do not quite get it right… but we will keep experimenting to improve the worship experience for all.
Perhaps the most gratifying point of this whole discussion however is that my sense is that all suggested changes, from whatever quarter, are made in an endeavour to genuinely improve our worship services… and grow the church.
We should therefore continue… as we have seen a 25 – 30% increase in attendance in the last 18 months. Thanks be to God!