How to Handle Change
by: Dr. Allen Domelle
Whenever there is growth, there is change. Growth is filled with change. For instance, a baby isn’t going to act like an adolescent. An adolescent isn’t going to act like a child or teenager. Likewise, an adult isn’t going to act the same way a child acts. In each of these stages of life, change happens as they grow into the next stage.
If a person doesn’t accept the change of physical growth, they are going to look and act strangely. For instance, imagine a young man who doesn’t accept growth. If he didn’t accept growth, he would stay in the same pants that he wore when he was younger and smaller. The inability to change would cause that young person not to be able to get along with others his age and it would hinder him from reaching his potential had he accepted the changes. Change is always a part of growth.
1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” This verse makes it clear that with growth there is change. This verse also makes it clear that as you grow, you must be willing to accept the changes of growth if you want God to do greater things through your life. God has great things in store for every church, and for you as an individual, but those great works will never happen as long as you stay in an adolescent stage and refuse the changes that are caused because of growth. There must come a time in every church and individual’s life when they put away “childish things.” In other words, you must be willing to accept the next stage of life if you want to grow.
In a growing church or organization, changes are not always easy to accept. For instance, a smaller church has a closeness to their pastor that larger churches do not have. The members of a small church have access to their pastor that larger churches cannot have. A smaller church is able to touch him on a regular basis; however, as the church grows, that pastor will not have the time he once had to give to every church member. If that church is going to increase their potential for Christ, they are going to have to accept these changes that are caused because of growth.
The children of Israel experienced many changes from the time that they left Egypt to the time that they conquered the Promised Land. When they were in the wilderness, they had manna fall from Heaven every morning, but when they crossed the Jordan River, the manna stopped falling. When they left Egypt, they followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, but that form of leadership stopped once they entered the Promised Land. Their growth depended on their ability to accept the changes that came from forward progress. In fact, one time they refused to change which resulted with their wandering in the wilderness for an extra forty years. When they accepted the changes that God sent their way, they were able to conquer the Promised Land and enjoy the promises and blessings of God.
2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ…” If you are going to grow as a Christian, you are going to have to accept the changes that God sends your way. It ultimately comes down to whether or not you are going to have enough faith that God knows what He is doing. If you don’t accept the changes God has sent your way, you may winnow away the potential that He has for you. There are eight things you need to keep in mind that will help you to properly accept the changes growth causes.
Instead of immediately reacting to the change, stop and breathe a bit to give yourself time to understand and see the good that God has for you through the changes. Isaiah 40:31 reminds us, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” This time of waiting on God is to help you understand what He is doing through you. Psalm 46:10 reminds us, “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”There are times when you just need to stop and not respond so you can give God a chance to do the work through you that He wants to do.
2. Don’t assume every change is compromise.
Just because something changes doesn’t mean it is compromise. I’m in no way giving credence to those whose change is a result of compromising the truths of God’s Word; however, there are times when God sends change our way for our own good. Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” To comment on a change without having time to assimilate what the change consists of could make you look foolish. You would be wise to make no comment when you hear of changes, even if the change may be uncomfortable. You may find that once you understand the whole picture of the change that there is nothing scripturally wrong with it.
3. Don’t let your preferences be the measurement for truth.
Just because you don’t like a change doesn’t make it wrong. I’m afraid that we have often labeled someone a compromiser because they didn’t do something like we would do it. The Pharisees were known for this in Matthew 15:9 where it says, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” 2 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” When you make yourself the measurement for truth, you are placing yourself above God and His Word. Preference is not doctrine; so don’t try to force everyone into your mold. The only mold we should conform to is the mold of God’s Word.
4. During time of change, focus on the unchanging.
There is one constant that will help you keep your sanity during times of change and that is to keep your focus on the LORD. Hebrews 13:8 shows us the constancy of Jesus Christ when it says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” During times of change, staying focused on Jesus Christ helps you to keep the stability you need.
5. Is the change against God’s Word?
The one question you must always ask yourself when change occurs is: does this contradict God’s Word. The church at Berea didn’t immediately condemn Paul and Silas when they heard something different; instead, they “searched the scriptures daily” to see “whether those things were so.” God’s Word is always our final authority, and when change occurs that you are not sure about, you would be wise to spend time searching the Scriptures to be sure that the change doesn’t disagree with God’s Word.
6. Ask the authority about what you don’t understand.
One of the greatest mistakes I see Christians make is that they never go to the authority for an explanation when they don’t understand the changes. Matthew 5:23-24 makes it clear that when you have a problem with a brother in Christ, you are to be “reconciled” to them. In other words, you are to go to them and ask them personally about your differences. You may fully understand the purpose of the change if you will ask the authority with the right attitude instead of gossiping about them or condemning them. Don’t let the change fester inside of you. Most authorities would be happy to answer your questions about changes if you simply ask them.
7. Pray for God to help your spirit.
When you are struggling with changes, ask God to help your spirit. Paul made that clear to Philemon in Philemon 1:25 when he says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” During times of change, God’s grace can stabilize your spirit and help you keep a right attitude towards your church and its leadership.
8. Ask God to change whoever is wrong.
One of the prayers I have prayed countless numbers of times when I disagree with someone is to ask the LORD to change whoever is wrong. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.” If you sincerely pray this way, you will be surprised how the LORD changes the heart of whoever is wrong. Sometimes, it will be your heart He changes, and at other times it will be the authority’s heart He changes.
Most of these changes that I am talking about happen during leadership role changes. If you are not careful, you will compare the new leadership style to the old and rebel when in reality the new ideas the new leader has may not be wrong. Now, if they start changing what the Scriptures say, don’t go along with the changes. However, if their changes are purely preferential and style, don’t let your pettiness and refusal to accept what God is doing become the hindrance to the LORD’s work.
If you are like me, I am uncomfortable with change. When I hear of change, my natural response is concern. I’m not expecting you to accept change immediately. In fact, I’m thrilled that you hesitate when changes happen because that hesitation is the guard God placed inside you to give you time to discern if the change is wrong. However, don’t let your hesitation turn to condemnation without scriptural application. If the changes are purely style, swallow your pride and let the authority do what He feels the LORD is leading him to do. If the changes are unscriptural, pray that God would show the authority where they are wrong, go to the authority with the right attitude, and show them from the Scriptures where you feel they are wrong. If you cannot accept the changes without compromise or with the right attitude, politely and quietly leave and find the place where you can unreservedly serve the LORD with a good conscience. Don’t make it your agenda to destroy the place you’ve left, but move on and let the LORD do what He deems is best.