In a talk he gave at the Annual Gathering of American Baptist Churches of VT and NH Dale Edwards, the new executive minister, told the story of how when he started to make changes in the way the church services were being run he was confronted with a bit of opposition. He told how one day one of the church members came up to him and told him, “this Church is going to hell.” He said to us his audience, “I thought we were going to heaven.” He said that we have a foot in two worlds.
An old world which is passing away, and a new one which is taking its place. Churches are notoriously slow to change with the times and change can often be met with stiff resistance. Today I announced two small changes in the way the service would go and while I was glad to have made changes, I feel vulnerable to people who will begin to say things like “no one likes you” or “this church is going to hell.”
Rev. Jim Brown, a retired baptist minister who is a member of our church has said that we need to have slanted shoulders so that words of criticism and anger can just roll right off. I am looking forward to the possibilities as we go forward as a church and am confident that God will grow us in God’s way. And know that there may be anonymous nasty notes or direct confrontations like the one Dale talks of. But I also hear with encouragement that Dale pressed on through that difficulty, that backlash and he tells how when he started the church had 50 regular attenders and there were 250 at his last service.
We can’t be afraid of change, we can’t let opinions of others dictate the vision for how the church might manifest the kingdom of God. Slow and steady, faith and charity and we will find our way into the new by God’s grace.