125 years ago, East White Oak began. This work started because some visionary people saw that changing the way that things were being done would be more effective than staying on the same course. Openness to change is a sign that we are alive. God has designed human beings to grow and mature, not just physically but in every other way, including spiritually.
The ability to tolerate mistakes must accompany openness to change. The reason is that not every change works out as anticipated. If failure is not in any way acceptable, then the risk of change becomes too high. People always default to no change in that environment.
This makes openness to discussion a key component to openness to change. If people are not able to assess in a very comfortable way the pros and cons of new ideas, if people are able to evaluate change in a positive environment for the good of all, then the ability to change is reduced.
This does not mean that we all pretend that everything is peace and light when it is not. Openness and positive environments for conversation do not mean that we shirk responsibility for the results of change or that we pretend that things are better than they are. What it means is that we all know that we are on mission together, willing to change, willing to share openly and positively, and willing to evaluate clearly. It all comes from our commitment to our Lord Jesus and to one another in Christ’s church.[i]
Biblical basis for change
The book of Acts is a book of change. The disciples were changed both by the resurrection of Jesus and by the coming of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it seems clear that to be a Christian is to be a person who is constantly changing because God is at work in us making us more and more like His Son. There is something wrong with the believer who is not changing to be more like Christ.
Not only did the disciples experience personal change, the church changed a lot too. For example, it went from about 120 people (see Acts 1:15) to over 3000 people (see Acts 2:41) in one day. That’s a lot of change! However, not all the changes were so nice. God killed one couple in the church for lying (Acts 5:1-11). Persecution scattered believers all over the place (Acts 8:1; 11:19), and new ministries in new churches began (Acts 10:44-48; 11:23-24). The church at Antioch had some amazing teachers in Paul and Barnabas, but they gave those men away to serve as cross cultural missionaries (Acts 13:1-3). The church became more gentile too (Acts 15:1-5). Becoming multi-ethnic was not easy, and it required lots of change on the part of both Jewish and gentile believers (Acts 15:6-34).
Why this article?
East White Oak Bible Church has experienced lots of change in its 125 years. Some wonderful changes had amazing impact; some changes had not very much impact at all; some changes were filled with difficulty and pain. It would be wrong to conclude that we should avoid change, for we cannot. The issue is not, “Will we change?” The issue is, “How will we change?” It is important to note that even when one is trying not to change, one is changing. For example, if a person has a bad knee and continues to live in their two-story house rather than “change” and move, the typical result is that the person still changes and shrinks where they go in their house. They just stop going upstairs. That person thinks that he has not changed, but he has. We need to keep in mind that we are always changing, whether we know it or not. The only question is whether our changes are intentional and with God-centered purpose or not.
In this edition of the Oak Leaf and in weeks to come at church, you will learn about several changes. All of them have a God glorifying intention. One is the effort to plant a church in West Bloomington. What a joy it is to give birth! (But remember that giving birth is also painful.) Another change is the way that we will be making our new church directory. We hope that this change will help folks to get better acquainted and to grow in connection and hospitality with one another. Another change is our testing out this summer a new way to conduct giving here at the Oak using electronic giving and offering boxes. We simply want to honor the Lord the best way that we can with this vital means of worship. Another change is our new website. We are so excited to have this new platform and believe that it will be a very important tool in helping us get the Gospel out. Apart from personal invitation (which will always be number 1), the next most common way that people check out the Oak is by going to our website. And speaking of “the Oak,” we are highlighting this nickname over our other nicknames on our website and other literature. There is an article in this Oak Leaf explaining why. It would also be appropriate to mention some of the physical changes that are happening in our facility as well—replacing the concrete pad at our main entry way; the renovation of the banquet room, the reconfiguration of the utility room, removal of some dark stains in our worship center—these are just a few of the changes that you will see this summer.
I can make a prediction. You will love some of the changes, will be “so so” about others and will not like still others. It is also almost certain that someone will not understand the purpose of one or more of these changes. That’s okay. Give change time to settle in your heart. Even when you think you are not changing, you are. And it is far better to make changes proactively, even where failure is possible, than to seek not to make changes at all.
There is a line from one of my favorite hymns, “Be Still, My Soul,” that goes, “In every change, He faithful will remain.” While change is inevitable for us, I am grateful that our God is unchanging, immutable in His Being and in His nature. It is in fact God’s unchanging nature that makes change so important for us. Imagine how horrible it would be if we could not change. We would never be able to become more like Jesus Christ. Our church would never be able more closely to conform to the will of her Master. God has so designed it that we change because He does not.
Lord, change me to be like your Son. Change our church to be an ever-clearer reflection of Your Son and the Good News about Him. Through Christ we pray it, Amen.
[i] Here is an article about change in the work environment where I found several of these ideas. https://www.leader-values.com/article.php?aid=107