One of the most common complaints about assemblies and churches in general is that it’s very difficult to make any changes. This can be in regards to time and format of meetings, music, outreach programs or pretty much any practice within the church. Things that have been in place for decades tend to stay as they were despite no vision behind them.
Some things should never change
For example, an assembly should always be focused on the Word of God and make it prominent. Anything else is a sure way to lose footing. An assembly should always be engaged in reaching the lost. An assembly should place loving one another as a top priority. An assembly should always be governed by a plurality of elders if possible. These things, and many others, should never change.
Some things should change
What can (and probably should) change in many assemblies are the practical applications of principles we hold dear. If a Sunday evening meeting is no longer meeting the needs of the saints in a fellowship then there is room for change. If many of the saints are young families and certain activities hinder them from participating, those activities can change. If a children’s program that used to reach 100 children a week now has 9 children, then that outreach can change.
It takes courageous leaders to make changes. Elders are often raked over the coals for suggesting changes and many time their opponents are just a minority of the fellowship. It’s no small matter to lead God’s people to new pastures when many have become comfortable with the old.
Why is change so hard?
Unfortunately many churches labor on with the same programs and format long after they have stopped being effective. This is possibly because of a general fear of change.
1. Uncertainty about the unknown
Fear of the unknown has hindered change for centuries. Playing the “what if” game can stall change and bog it down in the mire of endless hazards that may never arise. While we should never be reckless with change, surely our entire faith is built on the principle that God knows the unknown and when He says go, we go, despite our lack of understanding.
2. It takes effort
All change takes effort. It gets us out of our comfort zone and stretches us beyond where we are. Staying the same is comfortable. It doesn’t require us to think past what we already know. In fact, without change we cannot grow. The great men and women of faith all moved out beyond where they were and followed God to greater heights.
3. The good old days
It’s very easy to look at a program, activity or set of meetings and say, “It worked back then”. Past successes do not guarantee future success. God often has a specific time for His purposes and then He moves onto something else. Keeping something the same just because it used to work doesn’t make sense either spiritually or practically.
4. Making law out of practice
This may be the number one reason change doesn’t happen. People associate a practice with a specific principle or pattern and make a law out of the connection. I once heard a very dear saint suggest that there is a way to perform the Lord’s Supper based on the example of the Magi.
Others get upset that an assembly has stopped meeting on Sunday evenings, or the mid-week meeting is now in homes as Bible studies. These non-biblical connections are presented as being very spiritual and can be damaging when pride gets in the way.
5. A dominant believer
Often a great hindrance to change is that one brother or sister, or family that controls an activity (or the entire assembly) is unwilling to change. It takes a great deal of care, love and courage to take it away from them.
A related factor is that many of the controlling believers are now with the Lord yet their control still exists. I remember a friend of mine being told, “Brother so and so wouldn’t like this”, only to find out that the brother had been dead for 15 years. Following the Spirit might mean dealing with a person or group who is unwilling to let go.
Change is a normal and necessary part of church growth but is often met with opposition. It is not appropriate for any person, blog (like assemblyHUB) or governing body to dictate what every assembly should change. Each assembly is autonomous and the leadership should be constantly before the Lord and have a listening ear to the flock to determine the way forward.
As the assemblies grow and make changes, may we have the patience and courage to move forward and see our assemblies thrive once again.