Saturday, April 12, 2008


Though I was in the fourth grade in 1972 I remember vividly the song Changes performed by David Bowie being played on Atlanta radio stations over and over…..I believe my sister and I had the single, and even today it’s still played on various classic rock stations. If you need a refresher you can see a music video here or view the lyrics here.

Believe it or not Changes is one of David Bowie’s best known songs, but it failed to make the Top 40. In the book Strange Fascination-David Bowie: The Definitive Story, David Buckley reports the lyrics are often seen as a manifesto for his chameleonic personality throughout the 1970s. I can understand this as it seemed Bowie remade himself everytime you saw him during the 70s and 80s, but John Mendelsohn wrote in a Rolling Stone article from 1972 that the song could be construed as a young man’s attempt to reckon how he’ll react when it’s his time to be on the maligned side of the generation.

Well, Bowie’s certainly there by now, isn’t he? Born in 1947 he’s not exactly the younger generation anymore. He’s still producing music though and still changing with the times. He’s the same David Bowie….he’s just merely presenting himself using modern methods.

Bowie has branched out as an actor over the years most recently playing the role of Nikola Tesla in The Prestige released in 2006. If you are a SpongeBob Squarepants fan you heard Bowie’s voice used for the role of “Lord Royal Highness” in the episode titled SpongeBob’s Atlantis SquarePantis. Many of my students came to school talking about the soundtrack to Shrek2 in 2004. They told me all about a great song titled Changes, a duet by Butterfly Boucher and SOME OLD GUY. They’d sing it over and over on the playground. They were amazed when I told them about “the old guy” and that I listened to the same song in 1972 or as one child remarked, “Oh, in the olden days.”

Changes….sometimes we do have to turn and face the strange.

Ecclesiastes 3, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. Perhaps it ranks right up at the top of meaningful text because it involves the concept of time…a concept which is always near and dear to the heart of any history teacher such as myself.

The passage reminds us everything has its own time during the span of our lives. Sadness, happiness, death, new life, planting and harvesting, love and hate, war and peace----they all have a place at one time or another in our lives since Scripture tells us God created those things to be appropriate in their time and for His purpose.

In order to experience these things we have to also experience change. You can’t get from death to healing without change. You can’t get from throwing stones to gathering stones without change. You can’t get from tearing down something to building something up without change. None of it will happen without change. Life can’t exist without change.

Even so, many of us spend a large amount of our time here on earth resisting change, including myself.

I actually hate change. Change is the unknown. Change is scary. Change is uncomfortable, but the Bible shows us that change is necessary, and my own life experiences have shown me this is true. You can probably think back on great and not so great changes in your own life and see that while there were negatives with the change there were also postive things as well even though it might take some time for those results to be seen.

Last Sunday’s Bible Study lesson involved Abram and changes he made in his life. It was titled “Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone”. Using Scripture from Genesis 12 and 13 the lesson reminds us about God’s call to Abram to leave his homeland and his people in order to follow a promise God has made to him.

Genesis 12:4 explains Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran.

Between verses one and four of Genesis 12 we see the Lord commands and Abram goes. He doesn’t question, he doesn’t do any research, he doesn’t argue, he doesn’t discuss God’s command with a focus group, and most importantly he doesn’t ignore God’s command. God said go, and Abram went.

We see that Lot goes with Abram with no reservations as well. This amazes me. How many of us would pack our things and move simply based on the fact a relative told us God had spoken to him and promised he would become the father of many nations?

The most interesting thing is the last part of verse four……Abram was 75 years old. This isn’t exactly a time in someone’s life when change is easy. Now I’ve never been 75. I hope I get to 75 and beyond, but one thing I know from being around many who are 75, 85, 95, and even one important lady in my life who made it to 102, change isn’t easy for these folks even though they have the most wisdom to provide regarding life.

Yet we see Abram at at 75 setting out on a journey that our lesson compared to what we know about Columbus and his journey to the New World. I’m not sure I really know what I would do if the Lord spoke to me today, and told me to tell my family to pack up because we have to go on journey.

How many of us truly like getting outside of our comfort zone?

As an educator I have survived a firestorm of change in the last ten years. American History is still American History, but due to needed reforms I go about teaching it differently than the teachers who taught me. Instead of just reading a textbook or “sit and get” type lessons where students listen to me, I provide guided situations where students uncover content on their own. I provide opportunities for students to be motivated and involved in the learning process through various strategies that hit on multiple intelligences and learning styles. I don’t demand that students meet me at my level…I hunker down and meet them where they are even if that means providing content five different ways.

Now, don’t for one minute think that I and my colleages accepted these types of changes willingly. Believe me when I tell you there was much gnashing of teeth, snarling, and to and froing. I’ve stamped my foot and kicked my fair share of door jams over the last few years because I hung onto the notion that patience was the watchword. At some point and time I would receive that group of students that would be successful simply because they did it my way. I didn’t want to change, but I’m awfully glad I did because the benefits were amazing.

Reasons for the changes weren’t merely because legislators and educrats up on high told me to. It wasn’t really due to the latest research or fad. The changes were necessary because our clientele---our students---had changed. You cannot use early twentieth century methods with early twenty-first century students. Folks today aren’t just merely the television generation. They are the instant and constant information generation via their cell phone, their Ipod, their video games, their Internet, and any other type of technology I could list.

So, if the folks outside the school walls are looking for something particular does it make sense for me to say leave technology out and forgo various teaching methods because I’m not comfortable with them. Instead of merely leaving a child behind it’s more like I would be tuning the student out and off.

With that in mind do we tune people out and off due to a resistence in the church regarding change?

I think we do.

Over the last two thousand years there have been great upheavals and change in the church, and yet it’s still here. It’s not going away. Those changes were necessary to allow God’s plan to come to fruition.

Where would the Christian church be today if we still ignored Paul’s encouragement for congregational singing (Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19) and only opted for liturgical hymns sung by the special few who could sing in Latin?

Where would the church be today without the struggle that was created with the Protestant Reformation? Back then the slogan was “the reformed church, always being reformed by the church of God.”……always being changed by the church of God…..

Where would we be if Martin Luther had not prepared a Mass in German, so that ALL of the congregation could recite and sing the texts?

Where would we be without Charles Wesley’s hymns that actually provided a new focus….one that expressed personal feelings in the relationship with God as well as simple worship seen in much older church music?

Where would we be without Wesley’s new style of hymn and a period of history in America known as the Great Awakening which led to another distinct style of church music we know as gospel?

Thomas Aquinas said, “If the primary aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.” Applying this idea to the church how sad it would be if in our zeal to not bend to the needs of congregants we run the ship aground.

In his book, A Church for the 21st Century, Leith Anderson questions the goal of a church. If the goal is to preserve everything in pristene condition then it will be “defensively protected.” However, if the goal is to go out and do something those involved will be willing to take the risk.

Change, of course, does not mean turning your back on the foundation of Christianity. There are certain things that cannot be denied or ignored. Much like my subject matter of American History…..I can’t change the events, but I can change the methods I use to convey the foundational doctrine (John 3:16). The New Testament provides for us two things Jesus told us were the true purposes of the church. Those are the Great Commandment (Matthew 22: 37-40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) These two things are paramount until Christ returns. Over the years God’s people have stayed true to these purposes through ever changing styles and methods, but their eyes were always on the same common mission.

It’s clear to me from reading Acts 2 and listening to Bible scholars teach the text the church membership must be of one mind as the desciples were …..all together in one place. This is reemphasized at the end of the passage…..all the believers were together and had everything in common.

As believers we are all given the Holy Spirit, our guide to help us lead a Christian life. The Holy Spirit strengthens us, and it can be used to do things we have never done before. I’m just thinking that in order for the Holy Spirit to move within us we have to be open and willing for change to take place.

Are we, no matter our generational experiences, willing for that to happen?

Related Posts: From Attitude Drift to Attitude Shift
13 Reasons Why Members Leave and Visitors Run
What is Past IS Prologue


jquiltmaker said...

Enjoyed this especially since we all face change even if we don't care to. You'd think that anyone past 30 would take it with a grain of salt because they should be use to it but some of us still bulk at it.

Andrew van Leerdam said...

I love your writing style. It is easy to understand and you make sense. From a Canadian to an American, thank you!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...