A while back, I read something that I thought was great. It was talking about churches that are not growing, churches that have not won anyone to the Lord for the past several years. The article asked, “Why do churches that have not had any significant growth in terms of salvations for the last several years continue to do things exactly the way they have always done it?”
That is the problem with change. We tend to believe the past is sacred
and that it should not be tampered with. That is why we tend to want to stay (or
even go back to) the way it was years ago.
The question is: How shall we change? Here is my answer: we shall
do according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to the need(s) of the people. Let
me explain: I just read about a church that had been running around 400 people.
Then they decided to become a “Praise and Worship” church and started spending
an hour and a half to two hours in singing each service. If there was time
after the singing portion of worship, and the Holy Spirit led him, then the
preacher would preach. The result? People started leaving the church, finding
other church homes in which to worship.
An acquaintance of mine ministered at the church as a guest speaker. By
then, the church had lost more than 300 people. After about an hour and a half
of worship, the pastor said to the speaker, “We decided to become a praise and
worship church and 300 people have left. We need to get rid of about 40
more people. When they’ve left, then the church will really grow.”
The honest truth is this: Worship was never meant to be more important
than a love for people. You might react and say, “But worship is adoration to
God. Isn’t that important?” And I would say, “Yes, yes it is.” But just try to
get close to God while you ignore the needs to those around you. There are
plenty of “trainwrecks” of people and churches that have been unnecessarily
wounded by change. Spirit-filled change does not treat people like commodities.
God’s people are not disposable assets.
Just think of what that pastor is saying: he wants to get his church
down to about 60 people and then they will really grow. Suppose they grew from
60 to 400 in a short amount of time. That would be terrific growth - but they
would only get back to the place they were before they decided to change for
change sake. That would be doing exactly what 1 Corinthians 13:2 warns
against: “…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have
love, I am nothing.” Or, to paraphrase, “Faith without love does not
impress God at all.”
Back in the 1980’s there was an Assemblies of God family that made international headlines when their 10-year-old son died due to their withholding his insulin. The parents had embraced the extreme faith teaching, “confessing” that he was healed. After the father was released from several years in prison, he and his wife wrote a book about their experience. The lesson they learned was incredible. They said they came to realize that they had put faith above love. He said. “We could hear the cry of our son and we knew that insulin would have given him relief, but we had so convinced ourselves that that would have been a lack of faith that we denied him of it.”
When you have faith without love, you have nothing and you are nothing. It all comes down to love. Change for the sake of change is never the Spirit’s direction. Change for the sake of love is an entirely different story.