“Change IS a Position”
Dr. Hyles was at times criticized for his hesitance to change things. He was always very careful and considered before making any kind of change. I remember him speaking about men who were changing the times of services for the convenience of their people. Some thought he was silly for his position, but Dr. Hyles explained why this concerned him.
It concerned him first of all because change is usually a sign of instability. Men who are unstable are looking for changes that they think will improve their situation. Many pastors change, hoping to find the secret to building a ministry. Dr. Hyles always said that change was a "position." He feared changing. He resisted changing. Typically those who began to change never know when to stop changing. He feared this.
He also taught that change was often an indication of a shift in purpose. Many people thought that I was stubborn. Well I am to a certain degree. However, there were certain things that I refused to change because I did not want to shift the purpose of that particular item. For example, I refused to change my Sunday night service time. For years we had Sunday night church at seven o'clock.
I am not saying all who alter their times of services are sinning. I am saying there is a potential for danger anytime we make changes. In my opinion there are two words we need to be aware of; one is "improvement" and the other is "change." One is a battle against the current stream of thought and dealing with it to overcome it. The other is the law of thermodynamics at work where left alone everything automatically deteriorates. My thought; it is a battle between the flesh and the spirit.
REASONS FOR CHANGE
Whenever men would explain or excuse their decision to change their service time they would use one of two reasons. They would say it was a school night so they wanted to get their people home earlier for the sake of their kids.
The second reason was so that the people would have more time to fellowship. My Sunday night service was not designed for either of those purposes. I was not seeking to make life more convenient for my people, nor was I seeking more time for my people to fellowship. The purpose of Sunday night service was to build Christians.
I am not saying that six o'clock is worse than seven o'clock. What I am saying is that I was not going to emphasize something so superfluous that would distract our people from the main purpose of Sunday night church. I did not want them to feel that they were doing God some kind of favor by being at church on Sunday evening.
Those of us who kept our service at seven did not seem to have a problem getting a crowd because the crowd knew why they were coming. They were not coming to church so they could have more time for fellowship. They were not coming to church with the concern of their children getting home sooner. In fact the inconvenience was often better for their spiritual well-being. They learned to make sacrifices. Change should not be "purpose" changing. Most of the time we change and it sends a signal that something else has changed. The change is merely an indicator of something else.
Change is often a sign of influence others have upon us. I can usually tell who is influencing someone by the changes that they are making. They go to a conference or read a book by certain persons and they change things because that is the way that particular person does things. Be careful who you emulate. If you emulate them on those things which seem insignificant, you are more likely to emulate them on things that are of greater importance.
Change is often a sign of uncertainty or insecurity. Men who are given to change are typically men who were trying to find their identity. They are insecure with who they are and they are trying to change things hoping to gain some type of security. Men who change often create instability in others because of their own instability.
For many years I preached for a pastor in the state of Florida. I dearly loved this man. There was not a pastor in America I felt a closer relationship than I did with this particular man. I preached for him often. When I had Texas Baptist college I bestowed an honorary doctorate upon this man. He was rock solid in everything. His children, as they grew older began to have more influence on him. He began to make changes.
At first these changes were insignificant on the surface. They seemed to not really matter. But the changes continued. What was a trickle became a stream. What was a stream became a flood. Eventually that flood washed away almost everything the man once believed. Today he is not a Baptist, nor fundamental, nor separated. He condones most of the things that he once preached against. In fact he condemns the very people with with whom he once associated.
How did that happen? He became careless about change and the law of thermodynamics came into play in his home and ministry. We should never be careless about change. We must convert the word "change" into "improvement." Things must be done on "purpose." We must make sure that change truly has a purpose that coincides with our main purpose.
Our main purpose is not to create more convenience for our people. Our purpose is not to satisfy or pacify their families. Our purpose is to get the Gospel to the world and build a church that has a vision for the lost. Once the change begins the purpose will eventually change as well.
Recently I was with a man who I have known for many years. He said to me, “Dr. Gray, one of the things I admire most about you is that you have not changed.” I would beg to differ. I have changed a lot, but my change could be defined as "improvement."
However, my so-called change is not noticeable because it is within the purpose that I have always maintained. I have not changed my standards. I have not changed my zeal for soul winning. My changes or improvements can barely be seen by most people because I have kept my focus on the same things while making minor adjusting. I did not spend my time trying to change my ministry in order to satisfy the whims of people. I spent my time trying to improve Bob Gray Sr. in order to be more effective in the work God has given me to do. The work stayed the same, but the man changed or improved. That kind of so-called change is not noticed, but it is felt.