Last night I was called back to a post of mine from a few weeks ago (Worship, Gifts and Women) by a new comment, and I read through a few of the other comments with a measure of sadness.
One series of those comments became a conversation with a woman desperate to see immediate change in the perception of her church toward the idea of women being permitted to lead in worship. And I could sympathize with her, more than she could know or than I could express.
While I was rereading those comments, I thought about some things Lynn Anderson said in his 1994 work Navigating the Winds of Change:
Change won’t come immediately!
Back in the early days of our nineteen years at the Highland church, some of the elders and I prayed and worked towards changes that didn’t happen until fifteen years later! Be patient. (p. 175)
Change may not be ethical in some situations.
Some of us may be forced to hard choices. You may be driven by a passion to reach totally unchurched seekers or by a concern to keep from losing the boomer or buster generation from the church. But these people are not likely to be reached through traditional church models. You may have tried your best to get your congregation to retool so that it can connect with the unchurched or with a new generation of Christians. But others in your church, maybe even the founders who have invested their life’s blood in your congregation, may be driven by a different vision. In that case, to force your changes may not be ethical.
All churches don’t have to be the same. Some churches can change a little, some a lot. …. But remember, some churches won’t be able to change – not at all! Attempts to force 180 degree changes on such churches simply is not ethical. (pp. 175-176)
You may not agree with Lynn Anderson. (I don’t agree with him on all points – in fact, I think George Barna’s research since Navigating was written shows that many young professionals just drop out of church and there’s not much that anyone can do about it. But most come back a few years later, missing what they’ve left behind.) Still, Lynn has been there. He is an unashamed change agent. I’ve met him, and I think he has a heart for the Lord and for the lost and for the church.
And I believe he knows what he’s talking about when he makes these points.
Years ago there was an ad in Christian Chronicle for an album performed by the choir at my alma mater Harding, an album named after a famous old hymn featured on it. The clip-out coupon was phrased: “Rush me my copy of Teach Me Lord To Wait!”
Patience is still a virtue. So is brotherly-kindness.
But they don’t come easily to all of us, and they don’t come right away to any of us.