Thursday, July 23, 2009

Change and Adaptation

Remember the words to "Abide with Me?" "Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me..."

There are several ways to approach this change all around. Some would run away from it. Some would ignore it as if nothing had changed. Some would cautiously explore the changes to see if they needed to change because of the changes. Some would welcome change and become agents of change. Some would quickly drop the status quo embrace what is new just because it was new or different.

For the record, I have read, "Who Moved the Cheese," and as interesting as that book was, I am not sure the Church is in the same position as a business still selling vhs machines in a blu ray world.

I suggest there is another alternative. That alternative is to adapt what you have and who you are to the changes (as best you can without losing who you are and what you have). It seems to me that many churches today are changing. They are changing Scripture so that it fits what people think (about sex, about happiness, about family, about sin, about life, about death...). They are changing worship so that it is more what people want out of worship (spectators, entertainment, upbeat themes focused on success and achievement, pop music, comfortable theater seating, Star Bucks on the narthex, uh entry). They are changing the Church (into a self help group, a therapeutic session, a rally to pump up sagging spirits).

A wise man once said, "The Church who marries the spirit of the age will find herself a widow in the next generation..."

We do not need to change -- but we do need to adapt. The fact that you are reading this pastoral blog on the Internet is adaptation to change -- this is how people shop, communicate, learn, and connect today. So we adapt to use the medium without changing the message.

When I began as a Pastor, people expected that I would spend a significant amount of time visiting members in their homes, having coffee, talking about what was going on... Today the home is less a place open to people than it is the place you go to get away from folks. We watch cooking shows that tell us how to entertain but for more and more of us we heat up prepared foods in the microwave and seldom sit down as an entire family at the same time. These families don't want a Pastor dropping by but they will meet me for coffee before work, email me their situation and ask for help, call me on the cell phone... So Pastor's adapt. The older folks, like me, who grew up in a different world, think Pastors waste too much time on the phone or in their offices or on the computer. But that is the way people connect, communicate, and learn today. So we adapt.

The Church always needs to adapt. Language changes so we carefully adapt to those changes so that the Gospel may speak clearly to the mind and heart of the hearer (less use of the traditional language of justification, etc. and more descriptive methods of saying what one word used to say). Technology changes (though, believe me, the Church is always about 5-10 years behind) so we have a web site (which about 30-40 NEW people hit on each month)... and we send info out by email and PDF documents where we used to use snail mail... and we have services and sermons on cds so that people can listen in their cars or homes to Sunday morning...

The Church needs to adapt. Women are in the workplace today so we need to work Bible studies and church activities around the demands of work. For example, our VBS is held in the evenings and preceded by a meal precisely because many of the teachers work during the day and cannot teach except in the evening and the kids have no transportation to the Church during the day until evening when mom or dad comes home...

Adapt, yes.... Change, no... A nuance of difference that makes all the difference...

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