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Change is Hard, But for Christ…

December 8, 2014

It appears as though change is the new normal. There was a time when the world reinvented itself once every hundred years or so, but as advancements in technology and other fields come in increasingly smaller time frames, the world has begun to reinvent itself about every three years. Think about it… in less than 40 years, we’ve come from computers taking up vast rooms with standing reel to reel tape memory to having ten times that type of computing power in the palm of our hands… which we use to shoot small birds into pig-built obstacles for points. That’s a ton of change!

The same can be seen in the Church as well. In the past 40 years, there has been a shift from suits and ties to jeans and cardigans or un-tucked dress shirts. We’ve moved from singing songs written in books to using transparencies on an overhead projector to using a slide carousel to Power Point to the latest edition of ProPresenter or Media Shout. Pastors went from writing their sermons on paper and referencing a physical Bible to typing up everything, exporting it to an iPad, and using a digital copy of the Bible contained therein. The Church organist and choir have been replaced by the worship band, and many of the well-used hymns of the Church have been re-done in a modern style, augmented with modern worship music, or replaced entirely. This is but a small sample size of the massive amount of change continuing to happen within the Church body!

This vast amount of change within the Church has been the radical way in which many of come to Christ, while at the same time becoming the bane of others’ existence. What is “right” and “wrong” as it pertains to the methods by which the Church ministers to the congregation and the community has been a hot-button issue for years. The issue at hand, however, is not the change itself or even the response to the change. It is the attitude, actions, and spiritual fruit being produced by those who engage the change. What I’m talking about is the term spiritual formation.

Dallas Willard defines the process when he states, “Spiritual formation in the tradition of Jesus Christ is the process of transformation of the inmost dimension of the human being, the heart, which is the same as the spirit or will. It is being formed (really, transformed) in such a way that its natural expression comes to be the deeds of Christ done in the power of Christ.”

In other words, spiritual formation is the process of Christ-followers being molded and transformed into His image. Being molded into His image includes the transformation of our thoughts, our words, our actions, and our attitudes. The problem is, our humanity tends to fight tooth-and-nail against this notion, which causes us to rationalize our behavior rather than continue the process of transformation. “I’m doing pretty well compared to the next guy” is the same as not doing anything at all.

Philippians 2:1-7 says, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Paul’s words hit hard, but they may also cause one to say, “That’s what I’m supposed to do, but how do I personally do that? That’s just too much to do!” Well… they’d be right. It IS too much to do… on our own. We cannot possibly hope to achieve this on our own. It is only through the power and presence of Christ in our lives that we can strive effectively to live this way.

2 Peter 1:2-3 says, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”

Peter nails it! It is not through our own power that we can even begin to consider living in such a transformed way. We can only do so through the divine power of Christ supplied by presence and power the Holy Spirit working in and through us! God has already done the heavy lifting by sending Christ as a sacrifice for us, and the Holy Spirit to live within us and guide us through the process of spiritual formation and transformation. All we have to do is recognize our need, submit to the process, live in obedience, and allow God to do the rest!

I must confess, I didn’t come with this idea on my own. It was inspired by the words of my friend Ryan Giffin, who is the Lead Pastor of a Paris Church of the Nazarene in Kentucky. His words cut to my heart, and I hope they do the same for you.

“Fact: People regularly complain about stupid things, usually due to the “It’s all about me” mentality. (I include myself in this, by the way.) If spiritual formation is the process of a person being formed into the image of Christ, then this ought to be one of the changes that occur in our behavior, and more deeply, our attitude. I’d love to see the Church, those who are part of God’s redemptive community on earth, become transformed in this key area: to live for a higher purpose than our own wants, comforts, preferences and security. As usual, whatever changes I hope to see in others, I pray that the Holy Spirit will produce that same transformation in me.”

Folks, let’s stop fighting about the change that doesn’t fit our model of what is “right” in the Church, allow God to transform our lives into His image, and step out together in faith to meet the needs of an increasingly broken & lost world! That’s the only way to navigate change.

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