Sunday, January 5, 2014

Change Is Not Always Bad & New Is Not Always Better

There are two competing ideas that many corporations and organizations in this great nation of ours are struggling with these days. There are many people who are uncomfortable with change, and fight it at every turn. They choose to look to the "good old days" to determine how we should go forward. This works well for some groups. But others are all about not only embracing change, but creating it. They believe that the newer an idea or product, the better. And this also is a very successful plan for many.

My mother hates change. She hates when the grocery store changes where they keep the brand of coffee she buys. She hates when restaurants change their menus. She hates when people move and she has to break in new neighbors. And she hated change at Walt Disney World so much that she quite buying her annual pass after 15 years of having one every year. They kept changing her beloved Epcot, and she just couldn't take it anymore. And that is not even getting into what they did to Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. She despises change. And she is not alone. There is large portion of the population who tend to think all change is bad. And contrary to popular belief, these folks are not all senior citizens. People fight change.

Then there is this. On my favorite television show How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson once put forth the hypothesis that "new is always better!" And many of us certainly buy into that. Just look at the lines to purchase a new I-Phone anytime there is an upgrade. It is not significantly different than the previous model- but since it is new it must be better! Every new book gives us new ways to be a better leader, husband, mother or  Christian- and we believe them all! After all, these things are new. And new is always better!

The problem with these hypotheses is that nothing is that absolute. Change is inevitable, and we know that. Does anyone really long for the days of the rotary dial phone or dirt roads? But when the changes impact us personally, we draw back. We might even panic. As Garth from Wayne's World once said, "We fear change." It is so true. And that leads to a constant battle between living in a world that is rapidly changing and holding onto the things we feel are important to us. We must all learn to deal with change and with things that are new. But that does not mean that new is always better. The 2012 Olympic planning committee didn't go to Sir Paul McCartney and ask him to play something off of his latest album at the Opening Ceremonies. They wanted Hey Jude!  No one prefers The Office without Steve Carell to the show with him. The latest $2000 sneakers will never be better than my classic Chuck Taylors. Or as Ted Mosby replied in HIMYM when Barney made his statement about new always being better, "You don't go to a Guns'N'Roses concert and yell 'play Chinese Democracy!' You want Sweet Child O Mine!" New can be great. New can make our world a better place. But new is not always better.

So what got me thinking about all of this? It seems to me that that Church of Jesus Christ is impacted by both of the ideas. In fact, the church may be the one organization fighting both of these battles at once. We are, by our very being, tied to history and tradition. We are, by our very mission, trying to connect and relate to the world we live so that everyone might know Jesus. The conflict between these two things is constant. and it often plays out like this. I want young people to come to church (they're new) but I am unwilling to give up my worship time, chosen seat or preferred style of music (that's too much change) so they might feel more at home. I want the pastor to engage those who didn't grow up in the church (new people) but I hate it when we don't say the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer every week (big changes). These struggles lead to people feeling left out or unheard. In many congregations they have led to splits over music and worship styles. I grew up Quaker, so I know what it is like to see change as the enemy (Q: How many Quakers does it take to change a light bulb? A: CHANGE! Who said anything about CHANGE!!!). I also served in a church that that not only embraced change, they were constantly creating it. New was always better. Never mind history or tradition. And it bit them in the butt in the long run...

The bottom line is we cannot worship tradition, and we must not worship change. We worship only one God, only one Savior. We must open our hearts and our minds to see things the way Jesus sees them. Some old traditions are worth preserving. Some new ideas are valuable and worth adding. Remember, Jesus is the one who came to make everything old new again. If we seek to keep our message consistent and Christ-centered, but are willing to change the manner in which is it delivered, then we are on the right track. It is not about how we worship. It is about WHO we worship and how much he loves us. And praise Jesus, that is never changing.

Because of Jesus,

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