The Challenge of Kingdom Change (Graziano Crepaldi)
Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago. I am going to do something new. It is already happening. Don’t you recognise it? (Isaiah 43:18-19)
We live in an ever-changing world. Everything in the world has been changing for as long as it’s existed. But the rate of change in every sphere in the world today is unprecedented and God is at work in our life and through our life in more ways than we can imagine. New developments are transpiring at an exponential rate. The pandemic didn’t create a world of unclear change, it accelerated it. The way we think about our identity in God, the destiny of our nations, peace, justice, sustainability and who gets to decide how we run the world will impact us all. The challenge is whether we are able to be transform and follow Christ and our Father’s plan for His Kingdom! The greatest issue that confronts the believers today is the challenge of change. We are aware that much of that change is good and lots of it is bad and we need to discern the manner in which the church should face those changes. Sadly many organizations and leaders are resistant to any and all change. We are though aware that there are many transition that are long overdue and necessary if the believers has to became more prepare for the future. It is important to be in harmony with God’s present truth and his purpose for this season.
There are relatively few people that feel comfortable with change and most of us feel a security in things the way they have always known them. The rapidly changing world is bewildering and it challenges our sense of security and well being. The fact is that change is transpiring and we cannot deny or alter that. Certain fundamental changes must take place in the church in order to maintain a vital relevance and effectiveness in our modern world.
In the New Testament, successful Kingdom ministry required much change. Paul was a free man, but he decided to made himself a servant to all (1 Cor. 9:19-23). To the Jews he became as a Jew. To those under the law he became as one under the law. To those outside the law he again changed accordingly. To the weak he became weak. All that is to say, for the sake of Kingdom, he changed. He adapted. He did what he had to do to see Christ’s message spreading to the nations. Paul was simply following the example of Christ that: “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8) God does not change (Mal 3:6). God is unchanging and unchangeable. The love for the Heavenly Father and for us moved Jesus to leave his heavenly dwelling and became the best example of servanthood of all time!
Transitions are not easy and believers aren’t often the best examples when it comes to making changes. Paul understood this principle when he said: “Brethren, I do not consider that I have fully arrived, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, I reach forward to those things which are ahead.” (Phil 3:13). But if we want to see God do great things through us for the Gospel, then we must “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14) and tackle opposition to change. Without transformation, there is no development and all progress requires moving spiritually from one place to another. Therefore achieving perfection requires many shifts. Conversion and sanctification, are both radical turnovers. Some of the earliest phases of our spiritual life are presented in “Repent therefore and be converted,(changed) that your sins may be blotted out, (erased and forgotten) so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before" (Acts 3:19-20). The processes of change are implicit in every living thing that God created. Nothing develops and grows except through ordered processes of transition and transformation. Let us consider change, here’s a list of some reasons we resist change and ways true Kingdom disciples can overcome that resistance.
The religious tradition
The Church is often not focus on the Kingdom of God, but very busy defending the human tradition rather than understanding biblical values. Many christians often mistakes ancient culture for righteousness. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees of His day for doing this and He will do the same way towards us as we religiously cling to man made traditions. We definitely don’t want to become like the Pharisees of Christ’s day who “made the commandments of God of none effect by their vain traditions received of men.” (Matt. 15:3). Many believers can simply be satisfied with the way things are.
Fear and suspect the unknown
We meet very often leaders that complain about their communities and lack of fruit in their work, but they themselves are not so ready to change. We know the results we get from our routines and traditions because they are predictable. But when new ideas, approaches, or concepts, pulls us out of the familiar we start to panic. We are pushed beyond our comfort zone and forced to take a step toward what we cannot fully see. As God brought His people out of Egypt and towards their Promised Land, He had to constantly stir them afresh. The people of Israel made themselves comfortable even in the wilderness and God had to break them out of their false security. God’s message is very different and He is telling us: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Isa. 41:10)
Lack of faith in the Father and His Kingdom’s plan
Many christians do not like risk. People are too comfortable and feel secure with what we know in the present. We think that change is okay if we think it up ourselves, but if we must trust someone else’s plan, then forget it! If we have some ownership, then we will be more likely to move forward with us. Paul says that “Faith is the evidence of things not yet seen.” (Heb. 11:1).There is usually a “risk factor” involved in the exercise of faith as there is in the initiation of changes. We have no guarantee but our faith, which we should remember is based on God’s word and not the wisdom of man. Many leaders are afraid to release their hold on the past in order to effectively grasp the future. They have lost the spirit of adventure that is always present when we exercise our faith.
Unwillingness to follow godly leadership
God is rising up leaders for His Church and often they arrive and change things before they have time to build meaningful trust in their people. But it is equally true that in the church, God calls us to “obey our leaders and submit to them” and to allow them to shepherd “with joy and not with groaning” (Heb. 13:17). It would be important that we our words and deeds we make it easier for our leaders to practice joyful leadership.
God is trustworthy
God is not old fashioned, antiquated or obsolete. He is the eternal God of the past, present and future. God is not only up to date, He is decidedly futuristic. No change that will ever occur with take God by surprise or catch Him off balance. We need to prayerfully discern those changes that are positive able to better facilitate the spread of the Gospel and take advantage of them. Therefore future change must be faced with faith in God, His Word, His purposes, His inevitable triumph, and His manifest Kingdom. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28). Whatever the future may bring the ultimate reality will be the unveiling of God’s eternal, glorious Kingdom! We must be steadfast, yet flexible, like a tree. As we read in the Word: “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bring forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he do shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3). A tree that is planted by the riverside develops a deep and powerful root system that tends to make that tree unmovable. But its trunk and branches remain flexible and able to bend with the strong winds that may blow against it.
Leaders are role models
The leaders must recognize inevitable need for legitimate change like the sons of Issachar who were few in number but they played a leading role in the life, movements and events of their nation, because they “understood the significance of their times and knew what Israel ought to do.” (1 Chr. 12:32). Leaders must give creative, prophetic leadership to their people by both word and example. The early church was faced with the challenge of many transitions all of which they firstly made the subject of intense prayer. Any prospective changes should first become the subject of prayer for guidance. Once God gives a green light in answer to fervent prayer we must continue prayerfully, only initiating those moves that He clearly lead us to do.
Unity among believers
Unity of hearts and minds must precede any healthy change. The early church said: “It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord.” (Acts 15:25) as they faced with the challenge of the issue of circumcision and reaching Gentiles with the Gospel of the Kingdom. They brought such issues to a forum of apostles, prophets and teachers in order to gain unity. No radical changes should be thrust upon people without first taking the time to teach and fully inform people of all the ramifications involved. Once a firm decision has been taken in respect of proposed change, the decisions should be implemented with great wisdom and courage. We also need to consider that occasionally change is fast, but this is not usually the case. More frequently it occurs in stages that are achieved progressively.
In this time it would be important that we identify exactly what need to change in our lives and our teams. A lack of precision and thoroughness in planning can end up casting chaos rather than a vision. We also need to take time to develop trust. The trust and relational capital that’s needed to implement change can only grow over time and healthy Kingdom connections in our community would help us to move faster and deeper.
The universal Kingdom of God
In these years a shaking is taking place throughout the world as God predicted it would. If you are alarmed and fearful because of present changes, fasten your seat belt, because much more is going to happen. “Yet once more I will shake not the earth only but the heavens… signifying the removing of those that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain… wherefore we shall receive a Kingdom which cannot be moved.” (Heb. 12:25-28).
The manifestation of God’s Universal Kingdom Rule will effect more change and transformation than any event in global history, but it is an amazing privilege that we will be part of what God is going to do in and through His Kingdom!