Vol. 11 No. 4 April 2009
In September of 1995, I purchased a book written by Lynn Anderson entitled, Navigating the Winds of Change. It was and is a manual on “How to manage change in the church.” It is not to be understood by the author of the book that all changes would be acceptable to him, however, he does mention several changes that could be made that would be considered unscriptural by the majority of Christians. It is evident that many brethren are in the process of implementing the author’s suggestions and methods in introducing unscriptural practices to the various assemblies in their congregations.
First of all, on page 150, brother Anderson writes: “Change things at an appropriate pace. William Bridges, who wrote Managing Transitions, says that ‘the real problem is not in bringing about change, but to keep too much change from happening too fast.’ The attitude of many seems to be: ‘If next year would help, immediately will cure everything.’ Sometimes the urgency of the convinced ignores the feelings of the unconvinced. This is both unloving and counterproductive.” An eldership would be wise in consulting with the local membership about some changes that would affect the entire congregation. For example, it would be best if the elders would suggest a period of trial concerning the changing of the times of the Sunday morning assemblies before implementing the change suddenly within a week’s time. I know personally of a case wherein the elders arbitrarily changed the times and did so immediately, and some of the members almost became contentious over the matter. Concerning changes that would be considered unscriptural as per the teaching of the New Testament, some of our brethren are being very careful not to be too aggressive, but to implement the changes very gradually.
In the next paragraph, brother Anderson presented this rule: “Do not introduce the most important changes at the point of greatest risk.” He then explained the meaning of this statement: “The most important changes should not be introduced at the point of greatest risk – the Sunday morning assembly. Important changes must be introduced with care – perhaps at a retreat or on Wednesday or Sunday nights. In the minds of many, Sunday morning assemblies are the most ‘sacred’ time and the most sensitive place and thus should be least tampered with. Be wise and thoughtful in your introduction of change.”
In the past several years, we have seen how some brethren have followed this rule completely. Here are a few examples. A congregation in our capitol city of Alabama during the past summer used instrumental music with the songs the children were singing during vacation Bible school. Another congregation formed an instrumental band to be used in their services on a week night when they came together for a ‘praise service.’ A large congregation in a metropolitan area permitted their young people to add an instrumental band to their praise team. One of the reasons given by the elders for this decision was because the congregation was losing many of their youth. Some brethren are also using icons, burning incense and candles in assemblies during the week nights.
Most of these brethren would say that for the sake of unity that they would not use the instrument, etc. during the Sunday morning worship assembly; however, it will only be a matter of time before the instrument will be accepted in the worship during the Lord’s Day assemblies. Experience teaches that this observation is true. It has happened and will happen again because the young people will be accustomed to using the instrument in the worship assemblies on other days, and when it is introduced in the Sunday assemblies their consciences will not be offended.
Now, I want you to read very carefully this paragraph that is found on page 173 of Anderson’s book. “Strategy one. Weave! Alternate between safety and disequilibrium. Teach new ideas a while, stretching your church out beyond comfort zones and into fresh thinking. At first you may hear, ‘Wow! I never noticed that in the Bible before!’ This is only mild disequilibrium. But when you feel your church approaching the limits of tolerance, back off! Talk about familiar and safe things for a while. Then, move back out to the cutting edge again. Weave out and in—weave out with new ideas, then weave back in with talk of comfortable things. Then weave out again by implementing new practices; then weave back to some old practices that feel safer. Weave! Two steps forward and one step back.”
The word “disequilibrium” carries the idea of being in “a state of emotional or intellectual imbalance.” This comes about when a congregation makes too many changes too fast. So what this brother is suggesting is that a congregation should gradually introduce and implement changes. While this plan can be used in implementing changes in traditional matters, it not surprising, however, disappointing, brethren are using these tactics in bringing practices into the worship assembles and advocating doctrines that are unscriptural.
An eldership and preachers that will not teach/preach against the use of instrumental music in the worship assemblies are encouraging a lack of understanding as to what the New Testament teaches on the subject. Then, to allow the instrument to be used in assemblies during the week nights is to gradually desensitize the membership as to its use eventually on the Lord’s Day. I heard about an eldership that would send out letters to the local membership announcing some changes that were on the ‘cutting edge’ and depending on the reaction would either proceed with the practice or they would hesitate for awhile and try it again later. It is a diabolical scheme of brethren to use such methods to introduce practices that have divided the brotherhood in times past and are dividing the church today.
The exhortation of the apostle Paul as found in Colossians 2:6-8 is much needed today: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principle of the world, and not according to Christ.”