Sometimes I think that when we congratulate people who are about to be baptized as disciples of Jesus on the wonderful decision they are making—we should tell them the rest of the story. That would be that becoming a follower of Jesus is not the end of change but the beginning. Following Christ means that we turn our lives over to be continually transformed by God (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Nobody gets to stay where they are. This is not only a fundamental law of spiritual life, it’s true in the physical world as well. We don’t think about it too much in this realm because change is so woven into every aspect of our existence that we’re oblivious to most of it. Everything is changing— the weather, the price of gas, the environment, the headlines, people around us, the clothes we wear, etc. Change is one of the constants of life.
Maybe it’s because of this we are sometimes reluctant to embrace change in our spiritual lives. We want something that doesn’t change. We have that in Christ and His teachings (Hebrews 13:8), but sometimes we mistakenly want more. We falsely equate lack of change with stability and security. Yet huge structures like the Golden Gate Bridge or the Eiffel Tower stand not because they are absolutely rigid but because they have a built in flexibility factor built that allows them to be adaptive to the conditions. Maybe it’s time we thought about the ability to change as being a sign of stability and security.
In Acts 8 the church is called to change. All except the apostles are forced to leave Jerusalem due to persecution (v. 1). These are all Jewish believers and they are being driven from their homeland. It shouldn’t be too hard to envision this because we see this with the Syrians and other people who are forced from their land. This isn’t change like new songbooks or a different parking place—this is total disruption of life as you know it.
The response of the church should be inspiring and challenging. We’re told that “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (v. 4). By the grace of God, they looked at oppression and saw opportunity! God used the persecution to fan His people out and they carried His word throughout Judea and Samaria.
Healthy churches are like healthy families—they learn how to incorporate necessary change into their structure and identity without having a melt-down. Just as families figure out who will pick up from band practice or the soccer game, how to pay for braces, fund tuition, take care of a sick member and celebrate a birthday, church need to figure out how to streamline and adapt to meet the continually changing challenges of the world around them. Otherwise, they’ll stay in Jerusalem and the world will be unblessed.