A few years ago, I came home to find my teenage sons sitting with some friends around the dining room table, laughing hysterically at some books they were passing around. I knew something was up because when I entered the room, they all looked up at me with big grins on their faces.
Turns out that they had discovered my high school yearbooks.
A musician friend of mine recently went on staff at a local church as their new worship director and he asked me to speak to his new worship arts team. Knowing that he was enacting some bold new ideas and policies, he asked me to speak on the subject of “the theology of change.” Which might seem to be an odd thing to talk about, but I believe he knew instinctively that people often have a hard time with change at times, and he wanted to assure the people of his church that it would be okay.
So I thought I would pass on to you some of the thoughts I shared.
First, a word about the term “theology of change” which my friend coined. The word “theology” seems to be one of those intimidating seminary words for some people. But put simply, it just means what I believe about God as it relates to a thing. So a “theology of change” is just what I believe about God as it relates to change. Which may be a topic you’ve never really thought about conceptually before. I mean, when you think about the concept of change, do you think about God? How does a God who is by nature unchanging relate to this topic?
THE NATURE OF GOD
It is true that God is eternal. God existed before time, exists outside of time, and you might even say that He created the dimension of time as a part of the Created Order. In the same way that a writer can create a story and place it on the pages of a book, He writes all of Creation, and then, though not bound by time, He interacts with us through the construct of time. God is the Author of Days.
But God is not only eternal, He is eternally contemporary. He is omnipresent and immanent, present in every moment, existing in every now. So to say that God is unchanging is not at all to imply that He is static. For He is forever our contemporary, forever in the present moment.
THE NATURE OF US
For some reason, God created us as time-dependent beings. He created us to live in the context of seasons of the year—winter, spring, summer, autumn. He gave us seasons of life—birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age, death. He allows us to interact through social and cultural forces which are forever changing. So life is intended to be fluid and dynamic, and change is a natural part of the human condition.
And that extends to us as spiritual beings as well. We are called to be transformed, which is to say, we as Jesus’ disciples are continually being spiritually changed by the Spirit. The whole point of spiritual formation is not just that we become good people, but that our relationship with God and our relationship with others becomes continually changed into this deeper and more meaningful experience. That is the redemptive invitation God lays before us every single day.
THE NATURE OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD
Finally, the mission that God calls us to doesn’t change, but the people we are sent to reach changes. The history of the church is change—from the catacombs to the early church to the desert fathers to the reformation to the great awakenings to the present day. And God has been a part of, and calls us to, all of these changes. While theology develops, methodology changes, and technology advances, we continue to be a part of God’s redemptive work in the world. We are called not only to be changed, but to also be agents of change.
Yeah, I look a whole lot different now than I did when I was in high school. I don’t wear bell bottoms, I don’t drive a Pinto, and my hair doesn’t hang feathered down to my shoulders. And pretty much everyone would say that’s a good thing.
God calls us to change, as individuals, as ministries, as churches. In our lives and by our spirits. It is an inevitable part of living life. And change is also a privilege, especially when we come together as a community of believers and walk the journey of life together. So we shouldn’t be afraid of change when it comes—because we not only know change is unavoidable, it is the nature of God to work in the midst of change.
As Christ followers, if you’re not changing, you’re stagnating. And if you’re not changing the world, you’re missing out on the great adventure.