Change is not a Four-Letter Word
adjustment, difference, modification, revision, shift, switch, transition, variation, correction, refinement, remodeling, turn, turnover, variance, tweak
Have you ever noticed that in the church we would rather use almost any word except “change” when leading others to change? Somehow it seems more acceptable if we talk about making a “small tweak,” a “slight adjustment,” or a “shift in direction.” I get that we’re trying to lead change in a culture afraid of change and therefore trying to make it more more palatable. But why must we use creative language to communicate the value and necessity of change to those we lead? And how is the fear of change affecting our spiritual growth and witness in the world?
Many church leaders are hungry for change. And most recognize that churches need to change in order to continue to reach people with the gospel of Christ in relevant ways. The message doesn’t change but the method does. The truth doesn’t change but the environments in which it is taught change. God doesn’t change but His people do. But how can we help believers realize the necessity of change if we’re afraid to say the word? Do we sell the transformative nature of the gospel short when we fail to boldly speak of change in our lives and churches?
What would it look like if we reclaimed the use of the word change? What if we were bold enough to call “revisions” what they were? What if we had the courage to lead people toward holistic change rather than an “adjustment?” What if we helped them see that as sinners we need more than a “correction” in our behavior? What if we created a culture in our churches that celebrated change?
Change matters to God. The necessity of change is woven throughout the Bible as we read about people far from God finding their way back to Him through Jesus. Because He is perfect and we are not, we are on a spiritual growth journey of changing and becoming more like Jesus. This doesn’t just require one initial change when we accept Christ. Becoming is a process of change that doesn’t end this side of heaven. As we become more like Christ we experience change in our hearts, motivations, thoughts, and understanding of ourselves, others, and God. When we experience internal change it results in external change through our actions and reactions. And when individuals change, the church changes because changed people change people.
If change is at the heart of who we are as believers and is essential to our spiritual growth, why are we so afraid of it? Most often, it comes down to comfort- not others’ comfort but our own. Most of us are comfortable being comfortable and uncomfortable being uncomfortable. We don’t want people to rock the boat when we’ve found our “groove” in how we relate to God. We don’t pursue change when things are going our way and we’re content. We don’t want to be forced to think about the fact that what’s best for us may not be best for others. So we choose comfort over growth, known over unknown, stability over challenge. And we get stuck. And our churches become irrelevant in the eyes of those we are called to reach because we make the mistake of thinking that the message is the method, the truth is the environment, and that we’re OK just as we are because we’re not as bad as some. Fear is a liar and a powerful tool of the enemy that keeps us from intimacy with God and from finding ways to connect others to Him.
How can we break the fear cycle that keeps our people and churches stuck? We create a culture of change where we become comfortable being uncomfortable. We stop acting as if change is a four-letter word. We publically celebrate change when it occurs in the lives of individuals in our church and community. We encourage others when we notice a change in their thinking and growth in their maturity. We evaluate our ministries and programs by how many lives were changed- not just simply by how many showed up. We look for life change happening around us and join God in His mission to save a broken world. And we courageously talk about change ALL THE TIME. How do you create a culture of change? Normalize it. Show people they’re changing every time they become a little more like Jesus. You see what you seek. And if you seek change, you’ll begin to see it happening all around you.