Change

Like Sinking Sand It Falls

That feeling you sense is the unmovable ground—what you thought was unmovable, anyway—shifting beneath your feet.

It will never return to its previous form. It has been, to use a term now in vogue, “transformed.”

Personally, I have never been in an earthquake—until now. 

But, you see, this is not merely a terrestrial earthquake, but a medical, economic, political, cultural, societal and spiritual earthquake.

Consider everything you thought you could rely upon in this world as recently as late February. Now, pause, and realize that you can no longer rely upon it. And, what’s more, to quote one of our most loquacious governors, there is no going “back to normal.”

Whatever your view of the coronavirus, or of the shutdowns, the purpose of this piece is not to persuade you of a particular point of view or course of action. I am not a medical, economic or political scientist, and none of us are privy to the information one would need to fully evaluate these things. Like you, I have lots of questions—many, many more questions than answers.

My purpose, then, is not to argue about the seriousness of the illness, or the wisdom of the shutdowns, or even the political, economic or societal path forward.

My point here is rather to state that which is self-evident, even if devastating. Things have changed. In a thousand ways, things have changed forever.

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"We Shall All Be Changed"

As I sat in the midst of the church council, comprised of at least a dozen gray heads, I was painfully aware that I was only 21 years old. They had asked me to consider being their pastor. That could not have been an easy decision for them, but I was going to ask them to do something much harder: change. As a fledgling separatist I could not join their church’s conference, but it would be simple enough for them to withdraw from it, right?

But they could hardly understand why I would ask such a thing. They had always been conservative and thought that holding to their solid tradition was enough, while the world changed around them.

Today, half a lifetime later, I am a gray head and I am struggling with the concept of change. Is it too late in the course of church history to propose another doctrine? Not so that I can teach it, but so that I can study it, a thorough “Changeology” needs to be developed. I must not be the only one who is longing to know when it is right and best to cut loose of old moorings, and when it is both courageous and wise to hold to the time-tested. Choose your hot-button issue: Bible translations, music, worship formats, personal separation standards, and probably any other you can imagine, the issue is: “to change or not to change?”

In my opinion Leith Anderson makes some good observations but comes to the wrong conclusions in his book Dying for Change, which is perhaps the volume most to the point. He says, “Two theological truths explain God’s relationship to change: immutability and sovereignty.” (11) He rightly notes that change is most often chaotic for man but never is for God. I disagree with some of his suggestions for modernizing the church, because we have different “non-negotiables,” but I appreciate his consistency.

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