The Imperative of Change

THE WORDS of the wise man Solomon, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18, K.J.V.), and the prediction of the prophet Joel, "Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28, K.J.V.), suggest that God's plan for the progress of His work includes an ever-changing flow of ideas and challenges. . .

-secretary of the North Pacific Union Conference at the time this article was written

THE WORDS of the wise man Solomon, "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Prov. 29:18, K.J.V.), and the prediction of the prophet Joel, "Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28, K.J.V.), suggest that God's plan for the progress of His work includes an ever-changing flow of ideas and challenges. How can we defend clinging to the status quo or monotonous cyclic repetition of effort as we ponder the implications of these inspired words? It is profitable and somewhat satisfying to review and report on where we have been, particularly if growth and progress is evident, but for a truly exhilarating experience one must attempt to chart the unknown, to blaze new trails and explore virgin territory.

The complexity of the numerous problems facing Cod's church today calls for real courage, a willingness to try, and an increase in the exercise of faith. Aren't problems and trials often Cod's methods of communicating to His people that change is in order? "A life of monotony is not the most conducive to spiritual growth. Some can reach the high est standard of spirituality only through a change in the regular order of things. When in His providence Cod sees that changes are essential for the success of the character-building, He disturbs the smooth current of the life."1

Whether the last sentence of this statement is applied to a single individual or a group of individuals, the message comes through clearly. God sometimes allows currency devaluations, tragedies, and other disturbing occurrences to jar us into altered courses of action and an evaluation of practice.

This is not to suggest that premature decisions or rash judgments are in order; rather it indicates that a studied and determined effort should be made that includes earnest searching of God's counsel and a sincere request for the Holy Spirit's direction. When this has been done, deliberate actions should be decided upon and implemented. "Because men cannot see every step forward distinctly marked out before them, they question, doubt, and hesitate, under the plea of caution. They will not walk by faith, but move by sight alone. O that frail man would realize that it is the General of the armies of heaven that is leading and directing the movements of His allies on earth. Christ Him self is the renewing power, working in and through every soldier by the agency of the Holy Spirit." 2

Our world is in a continual whirl of change. Toffler refers to it as a "firestorm of change." This creates new situations, challenges, and demands. Many of these changes are, of course, acceptable and we really would not wish to reverse the clock of time. Few of us would choose to re-enter the era of the horse-drawn carriage, the hand-rubbed washboard, and the old sod house. In reality we welcome change in most avenues of our daily lives. Major Alexander P. De Seversky once put it this way, "We welcome change as a friend; try to visualize new possibilities and the blessings it is bound to bring you. Let it excite you, arouse your curiosity, and transfuse you with its own vitality and you'll never grow old, even if you live to be a hundred." 3

Is Change Welcome in the Church?

But what about the church? Is change welcomed here, as it is in the personal life? Are we willing to make proper shifts with changing times? Can we accept the advantages offered by modern technology and advanced management techniques? How tragic it would have been if our beloved H. M. S. Richards, Sr., had not had the courage to follow his vision of a worldwide radio program. Even though the birth pains of that chicken-coop beginning must have been severe, who can measure the blessings that have resulted?

Leighton Ford says, "We need a holy discontent with the status quo. The Gospel calls for constant change. Conversion is a change of direction. Repentance is a change of mind. The Christian life is a continual change from glory to glory. Cod is not tied to seventeenth-century English, eighteenth-century hymns, ninteenth-century architecture, and twentieth-century cliches. Cod is constantly prodding us as He did the people of Israel and saying, 'Strike your tents and move on.' " 4

If the church is to adequately cope with the rapidly changing times and fulfill the God-given commission of carrying the story of Jesus as Saviour and coming King to all the world, certain change seems mandatory. Additional changes are unavoidable if the organization is to keep pace with the world situation.

In order to provoke thought and perhaps even stimulate some action, a few suggestions are out lined below. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor is it intended to be inferred that the items listed can be instantaneously implemented. Some experimentation with certain segments of these suggestions is, of course, already taking place. The results will be interesting to study and share.

1. Administration must continually engage in a process of review and redefinition of departmental assignments to avoid rigid categorization of activity.

a. Emphasis might well shift to one of cooperative sharing of ideas to avoid duplication of materials and effort.

b. A particular department should complement and assist in building other departments while concentrating on its own areas of specialization.

2. Much study and effort should be given to answering questions people really are asking.

a. Domestic problems (marriage, children, family) are now of great concern.

b. Health and kindred subjects are popular.

c. Our evangelistic approach might well capitalize on these current public interests.

3. More hands, feet, and voices must be enlisted in service.

a. Efforts to strengthen lay evangelism are most encouraging.

b. The student missionary program might be multiplied a hundredfold.

c. The Adventist Volunteer Service Corps must be encouraged and expanded.

d. Retired employee assignment offers great possibilities.

e. Secular employment over seas by scores of stable SDA's should be encouraged. "The greatest opportunities for mission work in the seventies will include Adventist engineers working for the Arabian Oil Company, Adventist secretaries going overseas for companies in areas where the church is weak, and Adventist teachers, doctors, and technicians applying for jobs with governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In 1970 alone, some 26,000 job openings were listed in these areas." 5

4. More efficient record keeping and accounting procedures are long overdue in many conferences and institutions.

a. Data processing is here to stay and should be used.

b. Duplication of reports and bulletins should cease.

5. Typical Adventist psychology needs re-examination.

a. A program of education is needed to help reduce the all-too-common feeling that young people choosing secular employment are not quite as spiritual as those serving the denomination. Consecrated laymen are needed who will be "in the world" but not "of the world."

b. Our youth must be challenged to witness wherever and whenever opportunity presents itself. Donating a year or two of their lives to voluntary service at the immediate family's expense would bring multiple benefits.

6. We need to develop willingness to deal realistically with non-productive employees. An instrument for self-evaluation might be a beginning point. This would not only allow a person to check him self against a standard but it would tend to define one's assignment.

7. We cannot overemphasize personal dedication and commitment. "There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart and lives a life wholly consecrated to God. All who consecrate body, soul, and spirit to His service will be constantly receiving a new endowment of physical, mental, and spiritual power. The in exhaustible supplies of heaven are at their command. Christ gives them the breath of His own Spirit, the life of His own life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in mind and heart. Through the grace given us we may achieve victories that because of our erroneous and preconceived opinions, our defects of character, our smallness of faith, have seemed impossible." 6


FOOTNOTES

1. The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on )er. 48:10-12, p. 1160.

2. Ellen G. White, "The Great Need of the Holy Spirit," Review and Herald, July 16, 1895.

3. This Week Magazine, Aug. 4,1963,

4. Leighton Ford, "Evangelism in a Day of Revolution," Christianity Today, Oct. 24, 1969.

5. Gottfried Oosterwal, Mission Possible, p. 65.

6. The Ministry of Healing, p. 159.

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-secretary of the North Pacific Union Conference at the time this article was written

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