Growing, Changing, Maturing
Did you know that the cells in your body are constantly dying and being replaced? In fact, within 7 year's time nearly all of the cells in your body will have been replaced*. Going deeper, 98% of the atoms in your body will be replaced each year. You are not the same you that you were a few years ago. Yet, you are still you.
The eminent Evangelical Anglican theologian John Stott wrote that "Every church in every place at every time is in need of reform and renewal." Like our physical bodies, the Body of Christ is constantly being refreshed, reformed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. But we have a choice of whether or not to be part of it. If we choose to reject what God is doing in our midst, the church becomes calcified and rigid and no longer able to hold the continuous inpourings of new wine from the Spirit.
It has also been said that each new move of God is most vigorously opposed by the recipients of the previous move of God. Like Peter on the mount of transfiguration, we are prone to want to build a structure on the spot where God appeared to us. Then we want to defend our structure.
In the early days of the church there was opposition to the idea of Samaritans and Gentiles being included. Much of the New Testament in fact--particularly Paul's letters--is concerned with exhorting Christians from very different cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds to be inclusive of one-another and see themselves as one interdependent body.
Fifty years ago, many Christians were opposed to inter-racial marriage. One hundred years ago, many Christians were opposed to the idea of civil rights for African-Americans and women. One hundred-fifty years ago many Christians were still in support of the institution of slavery.
In our own time, the idea of women being excluded from leadership positions within the church is more and more viewed as antiquated and out of step (in part because so many women have proven to be excellent pastors, teachers and leaders).
Fifty years from now, the next generation within the church will be incredulous that there was once so much opposition among Christians to equal civil rights for people who are LGBT and that people were excluded from full participation in many churches because of their sexual orientation.
God is constantly acting, moving, refreshing, renewing, reforming the church. Gradually, gradually, as we yield and cooperate, the church matures into the vibrant multi-faceted organism that God envisioned from the beginning.
(*Some brain and muscle cells are not replenished, which is why we can eventually succumb to Alzheimer’s and heart attacks. There is a spiritual lesson in there somewhere!)