Every morning that I commuted to church, I used to take great delight in spotting two beautiful large birds. The first was a red-tailed kite which perched atop an old dead tree, constantly surveying the fields alongside the motorway for small prey. It was, in my opinion, a remarkable bird and often looked both majestic and regal from its high perch.
The second bird was a large grey heron, standing alone in a small pond, continually looking for small frogs or fish to catch and eat. Its beautiful sleek features and feathering always impressed me as I drove by its pond on my way to church.
Recently, the habitats for both birds have been destroyed. The kite’s dead tree was chopped down to make way for a whole new set of ugly office buildings; the heron’s pond has been almost drained and totally devastated by new ‘upgraded’ landscaping. I was both deeply saddened and very annoyed at these changes, as well as being concerned about how both of these birds would cope.
The red kite changed its perching place to another set of trees on the other side of the motorway. It still manages to catch enough prey to feed itself and has adapted almost completely to its new situation. Sadly, the heron still stands on what’s left of the pond and is looking tired, bedraggled, and hungry. If it doesn’t adapt by finding a new pond, I fear it will die.
The two birds have reminded me of what happens to churches when changes affect their work and mission for God. If they get trapped in the past, then they will be hopelessly put in a futile position and subsequently die. If, however, churches manage to cope with change and make the right qualitative adaptations, then they will evolve and live. If they allow God to work within them for His constant purposes in an ever-changing world, they will thrive; if they remain unmoved and unconcerned about what’s currently happening, they will be starved of people and eventually close. The same choice is basically theirs: adapt or expire.
Questions for personal reflection
What changes are currently affecting the church I belong to? Is it adapting or expiring?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but the world we live in constantly changes. Show us what You are doing in the midst of all these cultural variations and enable us to effectively continue our work for You. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment about today’s message or ask a question, please send John an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s image is one of John’s bird drawing called “The Lone Grey Fisherman.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: