Looking for Real Change in the Church
If we’re going to see real change we’ve got to start getting real about change. Sitting, hearing, and not doing is walking in the footsteps of those Israelites who sat and heard Ezekiel but would not do. They sat and listened, but they would not prepare themselves for the destruction that was coming. Ezekiel’s voice was nothing more than a lovely song to them played well on an instrument. Listen beloved, the gospel is not just a lovely song played well on an instrument. It is a message of action, a message of warning, a message of change. The gospel says destruction is coming! The alarm bells are ringing! Are you preparing?!
Sometimes the greatest need for change is in the church of the Lord herself. Her members can become shiftless, easily distracted, and complaintive rather than constructive. Even since her early days even the Sacred Record records a complaint, “gongysmos,” like a gong you hear over and over and over again, rising up and becoming so loud it reaches even the ears of the twelve, chosen and appointed by our High Priest Himself to bear witness to the world of His resurrection. On one occasion the church in Antioch was also afflicted by internal conflict. Certain men from the country land where Jerusalem dwelt came down and began to teach falsely. Again, apostles of the Lord and church leaders were forced to intervene.
But no matter how problematic these matters might’ve been, and no matter how problematic some problems might creep in today and afflict you O’ church of the Lord, be assured that real change is in reach and God’s word provides a solution. You can overcome, and disciples can still be multiplied greatly in the land. Real change is just an arm’s length away, but you’ve got get real about it. You’ve got to get real about God’s word being instructive and not suggestive. Are you ready to get real about real change, real change in the church?
PILOT YOUR OWN PLANE
You’ve got to pilot your own plane if you want to see real change. If change can be compared to a flight that is supposed to get you from point A to point B, then learning to pilot your own plane and stay in your own lane is essential to making that change. Take your mind back again to the Sacred Record and remember the gongysmos the Hellenists made against the Hebrews in the Jerusalem church, and remember when those men came down from Judea and taught falsely in the Antioch church. In both instances something very important happened. Members of the church kept their place. Have you ever heard the saying, “Know your role?” That’s what those church members did, they knew their role, and they kept to it!
In fact, these are the exact words the apostles used when they summoned the church in the event of the Hellenists’ complaint, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). “Kataleipo,” kata, “down,” leipo, “to leave.” It is not desirable that we should set down and leave behind the word of God. Peter said concerning false teachers they have “kataleipo,” set down and left behind the right way (2 Pet. 2:15). But not you change agent for the better in the church! No! You must not set down and leave behind the right way to serve tables. Is that because you’re just too good for tables, twelve apostles? If that were the case, then why would they proceed to set seven men of good reputation full of the Holy Spirit to manage these affairs?! That would be a lot of good resource put to waste on something of little value. Not so of course! These affairs were of great value, but they just weren’t the apostles’ affairs!
Again, consider even the conflict in Antioch. When certain men came from Judea and began to teach falsely about the gospel plan of salvation, who was it that disputed with these men and had no small dissension, i.e. a strong disagreement resulting in discord and argument? Was it not leading men who were teachers of the gospel, Paul and Barnabas. And when that matter still wasn’t settled, the church had them go to Jerusalem and confer with the rest of the apostles and leaders of the church, men who were apt and ready to teach. Neither of these matters negate the importance or value of any other work in the church. The apostles were not above serving tables in Jerusalem. Those members in Antioch weren’t too lowly to take up the word of God and address false teaching. In both instances there was neither implication nor indication that the value, worth, and even ability among other members wasn’t present. It was all about place.
And here is where talk meets money, the fruit is successful in both accounts. Real change occurs, and it occurs for the better. The word of God is said to have “spread,” the same word used to describe Jesus as He “grew” and became strong in spirit (Luke 2:40). The word of God grew like a young man who hits puberty. The disciples were said to have “multiplied,” again the idea of growing and increasing is present. And even a “great many,” i.e. a crowd, a multitude of priests, god-fearing men who believed they were bound to the old religious system of Judaism now obedient to the faith! Even in Antioch when those matters had finally been resolved, the apostles return and there is said to be joy, encouragement, and strengthening among the disciples. And the strengthening happened not just in Antioch, but as the disciples delivered the same good news abroad the Scriptures tell us there continued to be strengthening and increase in numbers daily!
See the real change that can happen when members pilot their own planes and stay within their lanes?! You also must remain within the limits and boundaries of your work if you would have to see real change. Scripture says that “God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” If the hand tries to be the eye, where will be the hand?! If the eye tries to be the foot, where will be the eye?! The body functions at an optimal efficiency when every member remains where it has been set and presses forward without distraction and neglect of her God given talents and duties.
Let’s bring this down to a modern day context so we can better visualize the process and the application of this point. Imagine the Doe family of eight places membership and is asked to tend to the church’s mail, what comes in and what goes out. As the years go by, however, Mr. and Mrs. Doe become increasingly discontent with the church’s Bible School Program, Building Maintenance, Evangelistic Outreach, the Order and Formality of Weekly Services, the Eldership’s Leadership, the Preacher’s preaching, the Deacons serving, the Members working, the Mission Work organization. You get the point don’t you?! There’s a lot going on in the church. Too much for you to handle at once. You’ve only got two hands, and the moment you put your hand to one, and you put your hand to another, you’ve used up all your hands! And now, guess where your hands no longer are found? They’re no longer found on the church mail-ins and mail-outs, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith family of ten over here is becoming increasingly discontent with the church’s mailing business…You see where we’re going with this don’t you?!
Know your role! Know your place! Do the best that you are able to do in your place! Be an example to the believers “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity,” but, “do not neglect the gift that is in you… give yourself entirely to them that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself… for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you!” (1 Tim. 4:12-16).
Let brotherly love continue, and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, encouraging one another with words that are profitable for building up. Suggestions and the helping hand should always be welcomed from a good conscience without evil suspicions. But let each of us be sure to pilot our own plane and stay primarily within our sphere of labor. In the words of Paul let us say, “I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20). If we will be diligent to heed these words, looking for real change in the church God’s way will be just beyond the horizon.