Several years back I read a challenging book called Soul Tsunami by Dr. Leonard Sweet. The book details life and ministry in our fast-paced, postmodern world, and within this cultural discussion, Dr. Sweet comments that the clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. So, change is life, and stagnation is, of course, death. If you don’t change, you die. Sweet elaborates,
In molecular biology the world revolves around the cell. In the time it takes you to read this chapter, of the 100 trillion cells that make up your body, hundreds of millions will have died… for every one of those cells that dies while you’re reading this, another cell divides to replace it with a new one. Skin replaces itself every month; the stomach lining, every five days; the liver, every six weeks; the skeleton, every three months; cheek cells, three times a day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced every year—your whole body every five years (men) or seven years (women).
As you can see, our bodies are constantly being transformed. When growth and change stop occurring, we’d better update our life insurance policy because the end is near.
What is true of the human body is true of the church. In the book of Acts, we read that the church was growing at a radical pace (Acts 2:41-47; 6:7; 9:31; 14:21), and as it did, theological issues were discussed, relational tensions arose, and unanticipated problems bubbled to the surface. As God added to their numbers, the focus, structures, and organization of the church had to be modified in order to accommodate the increase in people (Acts 6:1-7; 15:1-35). Growth and life demanded change. If the Apostles had resisted change and insisted on control and predictability, the Church would have stagnated. Their redemptive potential would have been limited.
Thinking of this brought to mind a rural Methodist church I used to drive by every week when I was pastoring my first congregation. My wife and I would often comment about the small number of vehicles parked there on Sunday mornings. I vividly recall the day I drove by and saw the stained glass windows removed. The building was still there, but there were no windows, no cars, and no life. It was a sad sight. Within a couple of weeks, the church was leveled, and today there is no sign it ever existed. When it stopped changing and the life left, there was nothing to do except tear it down.
Change is hard.
Change is scary.
Change is risky.
Change is necessary.