It is inevitable that anything that is alive is going to go through some changes. That is true of living organisms as well as living organizations. This implies that there are there are such things as dead organisms and dead organizations as well…something we certainly want to avoid!
When God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 37 God commanded him to prophesy to the valley of dry bones and he did,
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
The bones connected, bone-to-bone and tendons and flesh covered the bones but there was just one problem, they had no ruah…they had no breath…no spirit. In other words they were not yet alive because the very breath that shows we are alive was not present, the very spirit that gives life had not come into them…they were corpses. They had the appearance of being alive…they had a body but they had no breath, no spirit.
I am afraid that is where some are today…they look alive on the outside but get closer and you can tell it is a dead corpse. That is bad news but it is not hopeless news. No. There is always hope in Christ for new life. In times like those, what is needed is a renewed reliance on the presence of the divine breath…the Holy Spirit…to be re-emphasized in our midst.
In case you think I am overstating my case here and believe that churches are alive by default, hear the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:1-2,
To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.
It is entirely possible to look the part of real live person but in reality be dead. Jesus commands those in his position that all is not lost. What must be done is to “Wake up!” If we are willing to follow those instructions, even the most rotten looking corpse can be made new again and be given new life by the Spirit.
And so the word of the Lord came again to Ezekiel,
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
Change is inevitable. Resurrection is change. Transformation is change. New life in Christ is change. Conversion is change. Salvation is change. Forgiveness is change. The church is always going to go through changes. Sunday school was a change when it was introduced and I am sure some railed against is as an ungodly innovation. Today, doing away with Sunday school would be met with the same accusation!
How do we, as Christians, navigate change in our lives and in the church? How might we love each other, pray for each other and bear the burdens even of those we disagree with? How can we be Christ-like in our actions and attitudes and show patience with those who we disagree with…who have met the same challenges and have come to a different conclusion?
Change is hard but it is necessary. Knowing what to change and what must remain the same is also a challenge. In this issue of Wineskins we will be talking about change and how to navigate the issues we face in ways that are biblical and pastoral. Our prayer is that this month’s issue is a blessing to many churches and Christians out there as we face many of the same things together…let us not commit to merely talking about these things together but praying for one another as well.