I believe it is fair to say that no age has experienced change as weÊhave in the last 75 years. We have moved from a house that had no
bathrooms to houses with three or more bathrooms; from the scrub board to the automatic washer and dryer; from the horse and buggy to the jet air plane; from lutefisk and brats to pizza and tacos; from the five tube radio that could barely bring in a station a hundred miles away to a television that takes you to any part of the world instantly.Ê
Most of these changes are easily acceptable because they make life easier and more enjoyable, but there are other changes which are
difficult to accept. Children leaving home, growing older, and failing health are just samples of changes that are not always pleasant.Ê
We want our children to move on in life, but the empty nest can sometimes be lonely. We know that the body wears out and with it comes health problems, but we don’t like it. Getting older is not to our liking, “But,” as some have said, “it beats the alternative.”
Every part of our lives change, including our spiritual lives. A friend made an interesting statement when he said, “I always knew that
changes were inevitable, but I did not think my church would change.ÊEven that has changed.” Yes, there are changes in the Church, and
none knew this better than Peter, the Apostle.
There lived at Caesarea a man named Cornelius. He was an officer in the Roman Army. The Bible describes Cornelius as “a devout man
who feared God with all his household.” One day he had a visionÊwhere he was told to send men to Joppa for Peter who was living with a person by the name of Simon the tanner.
While Cornelius was receiving a message from God, Peter also had a vision from God. Peter had gone up on the housetop to pray, and, while there, got hungry. While the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. The heavens were open and something like a white sheet came down from heaven. On the sheet were four-footed
creatures of all kinds, reptiles, and birds.Ê
There was a voice that told Peter to kill and eat. Peter objected saying he had never eaten anything unclean. Then the voice said,Ê”Do not call anything unclean that God has made clean.”
While Peter was puzzled about the vision, the men sent fromÊCornelius to find Peter arrived. Having heard about Cornelius’Êvision, Peter accompanied them to Caesarea. When he arrived, there were many people who had assembled. Then Peter said,Ê”You know that it is against our law for a Jew to go into a Gentile’s
house. But God has shown me that I should not call any man unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising anyÊobjection.” With this introduction, Peter began to tell them aboutÊ
Christ and how He had been crucified, but God had raised Him and He offered forgiveness to all who would receive Him asÊtheir Savior.
While Peter was speaking, the Holy Spirit was present and many believed. The men who had accompanied Peter from Joppa were surprised the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on these Gentiles who were present. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Later, when Peter went to Jerusalem, there were some Jewish believers who were critical of what Peter had done in Cornelius’Êhome. However, when Peter told them the whole story, they said,
“Then God has given, even to the Gentiles, the repentance that leads to life.” With these words, the Jewish Christians had experienced a big change. They were brothers and sisters with
all people Jews and Gentiles who trusted Christ as their Savior and Lord.
We know this change must have been difficult for the Jewish Christians who had been taught that God was primarily the God of the Jewish people. They were His chosen people, and now they had been shown that, in Christ, all were to be included in His Kingdom.
Change can be very difficult, especially when it effects something that is as personal as our spiritual life. Here we have to deal with the question, What can and what cannot change in the Church?
First, let it be clear that the Biblical message cannot change. God’s Law stands, and cannot be amended by society, regardless of new insights into life by other academic disciplines.Ê
The Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot change or there would be no historic Christianity. The center of the Christian faith is the message that salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, who has atoned for our sins at the cross and has won for all who trust Him victory over sin, death and the devil by His glorious resurrection.
There are other things in the life of the Church that can change.ÊI had a devout friend who was committed to Christ and a faithful member of the Roman Catholic Church. He used to tell me how the changing of the mass from Latin to the vernacular was the right thing to do, but he personally enjoyed, on occasion, attending a
mass spoken in Latin.
I remember well some of the people in our congregation who had come from Denmark and enjoyed a Danish service on occasion. I tried to find a pastor who was fluent in the Danish
language to conduct a service for them during the ChristmasÊholidays. How they enjoyed that service. The message was the same, but it was delivered in their mother tongue. It was hard for some of those people to give up the language they had been raised with, but it was a necessary change if the congregation was to reach out with the Gospel to others in the community.
Now we are being introduced to the contemporary worship service. Five years ago I thought this type of service was a fad.ÊToday, I believe this service is here to stay for a long time.Ê
Is that bad?Ê
Not if the truth of God’s Word is objectively proclaimed in this subjective setting. We should note that Peter accepted the change of entering a Gentile’s house, but when he entered the house, he told them about Christ. This message had not changed.
Contemporary worship is not my type of service, but if it reaches others with the message, let God be praised. I watch people going into the contemporary worship service at our church.Ê
Their dress, in most cases, is very informal. While there areÊpeople of all ages in attendance, the average age at that service is younger than what is found in the traditional worship services.Ê
Our goal is to tell the Gospel to as many people as possible. If that means change in the form of worship, let it be so, but let it be done in love and with sensitivity for those who are struggling
with the change.
Someone said that if his grandparents returned to this earth,Êthey would not recognize the Church. I hope this would not be true. I would hope that some of the great hymns of the
Church, which have weathered the storms of history, would not be completely forgotten. I would hope that the congregation would still join in confessing their faith in the words of the
Apostles’ Creed. For the believer, this is not the mere repetition of words, but an expression of the faith which the saints have confessed for nearly two thousand years. I would hope the
Law and Gospel would be proclaimed better than ever.
I would hope that those grandparents paying us a visit from the heavenly mansions would applaud the great changes that have helped make today’s Church more vital than when they
lived on this earth. Changes, like people of all nationalities and races sitting together in the pews, that denominationsÊwould have a less prominent role as believers have found
their unity in Christ, and we would be learning from each other.ÊChanges, where worshipers would not be there to fulfill an obligation or motivated only by tradition, but would beÊ
zealous in sharing their faith in Christ with the world of which they are a part.
Change will always be with us. It will be found in the Church as well as in the rest of society. Let us welcome change that will make us more effective in evangelizing our world. ButÊlet us always guide the truth realizing Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word does not change.