Change is an inevitable part of life. Everything and everyone changes. From the transitional nature of today’s society to the steady practice of replacing the old product with the new; everything is changing all the time. However, when it comes to the church world there seems to be a much greater reluctance to experience change than in any other area of life. There could be a few different reasons for this. And no doubt some of them would be negative. But the main reason there is such resistance to change in the church world is because of the seriousness of what the church is and what it does. Yes, there are selfish people in churches who make change very difficult. And yes there are emotionally driven people who are completely unreasonable. But the common presence of resistance to change in the church world, it seems, may be tied to a good thing. What’s that good thing? In an imperfect way, it could be tied somehow to people’s understanding of how important it is to protect and preserve the faith. Though this is not always the case, it could be at the core of why so many struggle with change in the church.
However, this long-standing mindset has been slightly misdirected. Yes, the church does bear the responsibility of protecting and preserving the faith, but that does not necessarily mean that nothing about the church and its practices can ever change. Actually, the Bible often presents change as a necessary part of God’s plan. Below the reader will find a case for change from Scripture.
Part I – Biblical Basis For Change
Though many cringe when they hear the word change associated with anything to do with church, the reality is that God often calls for change. Iorg, after explaining Jesus’ intent in giving the illustrations of the old cloth and new patches and the new wine and old wineskins (Matthew 9), concludes that “Jesus taught those important principles to motivate and instruct us about leading change.” From this statement, he concludes that “leading major change is a biblical mandate.”
The idea of change is not hard to find when looking for it in the Bible. In Jeremiah 31:31, God says that He is going to make a “new covenant with the house of Israel.” The writer of the book of Hebrews picks up on that idea and further explains what was meant by it. He writes in 8:13, that the new covenant makes the other one old. He then writes in 12:24, that this new covenant is the covenant that is initiated through the work of Jesus Christ. Here God addresses the nation of Israel and He tells them that He is making this new covenant with them. He is, and here is the word, changing the way that His people will know Him and approach Him.
God’s people will no longer practice a sacrificial system guided by the law. Now they will be a covenant people with God through the finished work of Christ on the cross. This is a major change and one that was brought about by God Himself.
This is not a singular event. Instead, change is found over and over again in Scripture. The disciples changed their opinion and attitude toward preaching the Gospel to the gentiles. The Jerusalem council changed the way many believed about works and circumcision. Change was involved in the newly born church distancing itself from its previous practices to the new way of gathering and worshiping God. All of these are biblical examples of change taking place in the church. And none of it was wrong. God approved and lead in each of these changes.
Part II – A Philosophy of Change
Should the Christian embrace change? The Christian needs to realize that change isn’t necessarily bad. As has been stated above, sometimes it is necessary. So how does the Christian know when change is the right thing to do and when change is unacceptable? To gain a proper understanding of this subject it will be necessary to spend a moment describing the things that the Christian cannot change and then consider how to decide what can.
First, what cannot change? There are numerous aspects of the Faith that the Christian cannot allow to change. He is given the responsibility to ensure that they are not allowed to change. The purpose of the Christian life cannot be allowed to be lost or changed. Christians exist to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Gospel cannot be allowed to be altered or changed. The Word of God cannot be allowed to be changed. The message that God presents to us in His Word is never to be changed. The role of the church and its primary responsibility to the world cannot be lost or changed. The church’s understanding of its reason for gathering together is not to be lost or changed. There are probably others that could be added, but the point is clear, there are many things that the Christian cannot allow to change.
But some things can change and might it be said, need to change. The specific aspects of “how we do stuff” as the church can change. The tools that are used in the church to carry out ministry can change. The building that the church gathers in can change. The different elements of the church’s service can change. There are many aspects of the church that can change. So the question arises, “How does the Christian know what’s ok to change and what he should be willing to fight to resist changing?”
The Christian must develop a measure to determine if a change that is proposed lines up with what he knows the Bible teaches. That measure must do two different things. First, it must take into consideration the reality that change is permitted in the Christian life and the church. And secondly, it must acknowledge that some things just can’t change.
To develop such a measure, it would be wise to first consider the purpose of the Christian and the church. That purpose is to bring glory to God. Then it is necessary to consider the mission of the church, which is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12) and to go out and reach the lost with the Gospel. This proposed measure should be carefully consulted before deciding to change anything.
If the suggested change is made, will it require that the church alter or abandon either of these necessities? Will it require that something is done that does not glorify God? Will it help the church fulfill its mission? Will it help the church reach the lost? These questions will prove helpful in trying to assess change and its appropriateness.
Here is an example. If the pastor of a church wants to remove the communion table that has been at the front of the auditorium since the church building was constructed is that ok? Is such a change permissible? Will moving said table cause the Christian or the church to fail in their responsibility to Glorify God? Will it keep the church from focusing on growing Christians in their faith? Will it prevent the church from being able to go out and reach a lost world for Jesus Christ? If the answers to these questions are all “No”, then the issue is not whether a change is acceptable biblically.
Changes must take place. The church has to be willing to change in the future to effectively minister and remain relevant in society. However, change is not the priority. Faithfulness to God and His Word is to be the priority. Are there things that will need to change, absolutely! But the Christian must know how to determine the appropriateness of change.
 Jeff Iorg, Leading Major Change in Your Ministry (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2018), Chap. 2.  Ibid.