November 9, 2011

More Than a Good Idea

It looked a sad sight.
A dilapidated and abandoned building; weeds growing through the cracked asphalt. Most of the windows were broken and the roof was sagging. Once it had been home to a bustling factory floor—full of ideas, people, and machines that produced something. Now it was just history.
The sight of industrial ruins is familiar—especially during a recession that has forced many companies to “close shop.” These abandoned sites can be found in many cities. They are often located on the edge of town or in the town center, where no one wants to live anymore.
In case you are wondering: this is not an editorial about the economy or the woes of Wall Street and Main Street. We get enough of that every day through all the media. Rather, it is about change (no, not the kind “you can believe in”).
2011 1531 page6People too can look and feel like abandoned buildings. Once productive—now discarded. Once vibrant and ready to change the world—now disillusioned and willing to just maintain the status quo. Once eager to try out something new—now zealous to avoid rocking the boat. Call it old age, call it life experience—our natural tendency is to do it how we always did it. It worked—so let’s not fix it!
Saul, zealous, energetic, convicted persecutor of the new way, must have felt like that. He had been brought up knowing that his people were God’s people. His theology came straight from the divinely inspired Word—at least most of it. He had studied with the best professors of his time—and yet he needed a radical change; he needed to retool; he needed a change of worldview. On his way to Damascus he met the Master personally—one moment, a flash, a word, and he could not remain the same. However, it took years before he was ready for the big mission that God had in mind for him. He needed three years in Arabia and Damascus (Gal. 1:17, 18; cf. Acts 9:22, 23) of relearning what it was all about. While lives get changed in a moment—worldviews (and theologies) need longer.
Churches can also become venerated ruins. Not always literally, but they can become stale and perfunctory and semicomatose—especially as time moves on and traditions begin to fossilize. Change, as seen in the story of the early Christian community and its interaction with first-century A.D. Judaism, is not always easy and can cost dearly.
How do we as Seventh-day Adventists handle change? Are we willing to allow God to continually shape and mold and transform us—individually and corporately? Are we ready to embrace change for the sake of the mission and the divine call?
A little more than a year ago we heard the call to revival and reformation. I am sure you remember some of the articles in this and other magazines, the sermons that were preached, the sense of urgency in your own heart. What has become of revival and reformation in our lives? Has it turned into another major initiative that will soon be replaced by other (equally important) initiatives and programs, or has it connected at a deeper level—the level that the newly renamed Paul experienced in Arabia?
Revival and reformation is more than a good idea. It is the basic foundation of everything we are and do and dream to be. It reminds us of the need for deep-level change, not cover makeovers. It makes all the difference between a feel-good moment and glorious eternity. And it is the only way to effect a long-term change that will result in renewed productivity. Sometimes old dilapidated buildings can become renewed centers of activity and productivity. Worn-out people can be refreshed and transformed. A church on programs can become a church in mission. It’s a long-term project that requires worldview-level changes—and it’s worth it because it is the only way to get the job done.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is and associate editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published November 10, 2011.