My journey, like many Christians my age, began with regular church attendance and baptism as a young adult. And I don’t consider it rare to have experienced a time frustration in my early ‘20s and dissatisfaction in my late ‘20s. Much of this frustration and dissatisfaction had to do with a sense that the church (both universal and local) was not being all that it could be in the world.
The culture surrounding my generation and the world around us was in a lot of trouble and we felt responsible to do something about it. And so we began to think of ways to make an impact. And not only did we think, we started to act! But when I look back now, I can see that I too often fell prey to a spirit of pragmatism. As pragmatism often is, mine was fueled by very good desires – to see more people meet Jesus, to see the church make a bigger impact, to tackle the many injustices in the world.
All These Good Intentions…
Swept up in the thrill of these good intentions, ‘change’ became my mandate. Of course when you pave a road with little more than good intentions, you can be assured of its eventual destination. I was ready to throw everything current into the bin marked ‘obsolete’ and send it off to the incinerator. Then in the absence of available working parts, I began constructing new ones – drawn up in the fertile ground of my enthusiasm – to replace the old.
But then I discovered something – there is actually a sort of manual for a lot of this stuff! And this manual was written by the very person who created everything to begin with and, silly me, here I was pretending I didn’t need His input.
My generation has always been told that WE could make a difference, but too often instead we just set out to make things different. Because different is always better, right? Everything MUST change, right? We have to burn it all down and start again! Right?
Making a Difference
Many of us still haven’t realized that making a difference and just making things different are two very different idea. Too often we’re in a hurry to change things – something, anything, EVERYTHING. Sometimes our frustration with the pace at which we see change reveals a lack of faith in God to bring about His plans in His good time. And often by the time we stop to consult the manual already provided, we’ve already led others in the wrong direction.
Don’t confuse making a difference with just making things different. Just because your impatient spirit tells you it’s not working because you can’t see it working doesn’t mean it’s not working. For some 2000 years many Spirit-filled servants of God have been striving to lead the church according to the existing instruction manual. They (and we) haven’t gotten it all correct, but I’m placing my bets on it being more right than wrong.
Sometimes we need to change the way we do things; sometimes we need to let the way we do things change us.