A Strategy for Change...the Beginning

Everything in life changes. The weather changes (like from winter to spring...YEAH!), health changes, stocks change in value, jobs change, our kids change, people change (sometimes for the good...and sometimes not so good), even the way we think can change. The only thing I can think of that doesn't change is Jesus Christ and His character.

Churches are not immune from change. From the first church in Jerusalem to all the churches in every nation, they all have changed and will continue to change. Change in a church can be labeled as death or growth, good or bad, wise or unwise, something new or something we used to do. Change is no respecter of persons. It impacts everyone and it does not care if you like it or not. Since change has touched all people in all churches (and will continue to do so), we are very fortunate that God inspired Paul to give us some instruction on how to live through change without damaging our walk with Christ.

The instruction is found in Philippians 4. Paul was in prison when he wrote this and his life was soon to end. He knew this and so did the church at Philippi. His departure, along with other circumstances, were ushering in changes at the church. Notice what Paul wrote, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work. Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life." (Phil. 4:1-3, NLT)

The first thing Paul instructs is for these two ladies to forgive each other and unite together under the one name that never changes "Jesus." Sometimes, when circumstances start to change, those who were once comrades for the same cause can become disgruntled acquaintances on opposing sides. That may work in the corporate world or in the arena of professional sports, but it always leads to a huge fail in the Kingdom of God. Unity is essential to surviving change. Paul knows this and pleads for it from his prison cell. 

Unity is so important that he is willing to name names in his letter. He calls attention to these two ladies and pleads for the first readers of the letter to encourage them to get along. To quickly are we willing to part ways with brothers and sisters in Christ because something has changed. Paul says, "Don't quit on each other so quickly or easily." I can't help but think, maybe he wishes he would have tried a little harder before he parted ways with Barnabas (Acts 15). You see, change is stressful enough by itself; but we compound the stress when we start departing on each other because of change. 

Change reminds us that we need God. We need Him to help us and we need Him to be the Bigger Banner we unite under. If God's people are willing to part ways over minor, non-essential differences ushered in by change, doesn't that communicate to others that the God we are united under is pretty small too?

Things are changing at Grace. Those changes are highlighting the differences that exist between what used to be and now what is; but what hasn't changed is the greater cause: the preaching of the Gospel and the making of disciples. Is that cause big enough for us to unite and get along when smaller things change? I think so. I see it all around me. People willing to learn new songs, others using patience when they don't understand, folks signing up for electives or Life Groups, and most going the extra mile to wait on the Lord as He directs all the moving parts at Grace. We will survive the changes at Grace. It starts with our commitment to getting along with each other no matter what.