I was on the verge of offering some ‘insightful’ but potentially devastating advice. Over the years I have seen certain patterns unfold in some of my friends’ lives. As my friend shared her most recent plight and her determination to change, I bit my tongue and barely resisted blurting out “If you keep doing the same things how do you expect to get a different result?” I’m glad I refrained from such a broadside. Friendship requires of me a faithful gentleness with my friend. There is no room for venting my frustration or impatience especially if it would be counterproductive. Instead I recommit myself to helping my friend to not only sincerely want change but to actually change. This will mean doing some things differently!
I was at a recent church meeting and felt the same thing. As Christendom ends and we experience the graying of our congregations and the aging of our buildings, the Church must do things differently. Centuries ago great battles raged over “The Divine Right of Kings”. Eventually royalty had to accommodate to a new state. It turns out there is no Divine Right except that held by Divinity. No one church or branch or denomination has a divine right to exist. The church that continues to act in a ‘Christendom’ mode or maintenance model is probably on course with the dinosaur or dodo.
Jesus affirms that the gates Hell themselves will not prevail against the Church. The Church exists by divine fiat as the agent of the Kingdom of God in this world but no denomination or single church can claim this divine right.
St. Paul, then Saul, was change adverse when Jesus said to him “it is hard to kick against the goads”. The church in the west needs to stop kicking against the goads. It is painful! Too often it is only when things become unbearably painful that we become open to change. I pray that we will soon reach that point. The very existence of some of the historic churches in the ‘west’ lie in the balance.