Never before in history has this world been in such a state of constant flux and change. It seems to be so hard to find anything really solid and permanent. But, believe it or not, there are basic, immutable, precious truths revealed by God which never change.
Change is a word that means different things to different people. To some it means challenge, excitement, new frontiers, progress, stimulating growth, while to others it can connote uncertainty, foreboding, disorientation and apprehension. To a few, drifting along with the current, it may mean virtually nothing. To the Church of God, constructive, proper change should convey exciting, positive things. For as former President Franklin Roosevelt allegedly said, "The most permanent thing in life is change." Repentance means change. Life and growth, even growing old means constant change.
The Acceleration of Change
The world changes — since World War II we have gone through several major "ages." "Without change time would stop," said Alvin Toffier in Future Shock. And as C. P. Snow said, we no longer live in the time when "social change was so slow that it would pass unnoticed in one person's lifetime." Change now is an avalanche coming at such an accelerated rate that a "new disease" has been created — future shock. So change, especially now in the space age, is an integral, ongoing part of the human experience. No one person can even keep up with the specialized knowledge in any particular field.
In 1973 a Europe-America Conference was conducted. Some three hundred delegates from both sides of the Atlantic agreed that "a new era is emerging." They said, "No one can tell for certain what is going to be in this new era, but we know it's coming." These leaders, statesmen, parliamentarians, military leaders and educators were all willing to concede that the future is uncertain! But world leaders and statesmen do not really know how to prepare the populace of this earth for its uncertain future. Nor can they or their followers cope with the dynamics of a constantly changing present. It's all just too confusing and disorienting. As Alvin Toffier stated: "Change is avalanching upon our heads and most people are grotesquely unprepared to cope with it." There are many reasons for this phenomenon. One reason is that many people view all change as negative. But all change is not negative. It can be the most positive thing in the world! All of us need to look to the positive aspects of any changes that occur in God's Church and His Work. Yet change is often upsetting. It tends to rock the boat of comfort and tranquility to which we all too easily become accustomed. It can be a very disorienting factor in life. But consider that the life of a Christian begins with what is undoubtedly the most traumatic change of all — conversion! The very word "conversion" means "change." After initial conversion, each day, ideally, a little more of the self should die and be replaced with a little more of Christ — His mind and His character (see Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:5; II Peter 3:18). The life in Christ is a constant mosaic of change and growth. It begins with a basic change of direction and continues throughout one's entire life. It is an ongoing process. As the Church of God grows closer to the original faith of the early Church, we find ourselves even changing some aspects of doctrine. As Paul said: "We know in part, and we prophesy [preach] in part" (I Cor. 13:9). As Christ reveals knowledge to His Body, as the Church comes to understand the Bible more perfectly, we find ourselves adding new concepts and doctrinal tenets to the fundamental base of solid biblical truth God's true Church has always possessed.
God continually reveals, by His Spirit, more and more profound truths out of the vast well of His pure Word. Our understanding changes as we grow to a more perfect knowledge of God's plan and purpose. We need not be troubled when God either makes new truth known or reveals we are in error on some point. Remember that if our eyes are fixed on the "hope that lies within us" — the transcendent God-given destiny of mankind and the unchangeableness of our great God and His promises — we can have a calm, inner peace, notwithstanding minor changes in doctrine.
A Christian Acknowledges Error
The ability to take correction from the Word of God is one of the marks or identifying signs of a true Christian. We should not be afraid or reluctant to change in the face of new evidence and new truth. Christ promised His Church: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth..." (John 16:13). This is a continuing process in the Church in all ages. In past ages, sometimes truth was lost in the shuffle; sometimes even the Church itself was almost lost from view! But truth has always emerged in the long run, clean and pristine. Every once in a while we have to have a "course correction" like an airplane. If you drive an automobile you know you must continually adjust your steering and make course corrections. The same is true as God guides His Church into all truth. Sometimes this creates certain stresses on the body — just as stresses occur in the structure of an airplane. But the point is, the body is built to take those adjustments — it is designed to withstand the stresses and changes that necessarily occur! As long as we keep our eyes on Christ, we will be able to endure correction and change and come through with flying colors.
Love Sees Us Through
The Church should be rooted and grounded in love. And love, as the apostle Paul taught (I Cor. 13:8), never fails. No matter what changes occur — internally or externally - love endures through it all. No matter what challenges the Body of Christ faces, it always comes through because it is entrenched in the bedrock of God's love. And that love endures all things. Granted, initially it is a little disturbing (or highly disturbing, depending on one's individual orientation and background). But "all things work together for good to them that love God..." (Rom. 8:28). Once the change has been made, the Church emerges all the better for it. In recent years the Church of God has changed its teaching in a number of areas. We have gained a more mature understanding of prophecy; we have adjusted our teaching on marriage and divorce, Pentecost and makeup.
Change Can Be Good
But these changes have all been for the greater good of the Church. All have been based on a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and the mind of Christ. Burdens have been lifted and the Church has more truth now — quantitatively speaking — than it ever had in the past! We are that much closer to the faith once delivered. Yet the old tried-and-tested truths endure. They shine stronger than ever! Those fundamental teachings which make the Church of God unique continue to be taught and practiced. Man's ultimate destiny remains the same — man was born to become born again into the very family of the living God! Christ's teaching is still true: "... If you will enter into life, keep the commandments." The Church of God continues to believe those basic biblical truths for which it has so long stood. And it will continue to do so! But the Bible is a big Book! As the years go by, the Church will continue to grow in grace and in knowledge. New truths will gradually replace old errors and misunderstandings. Change will continue to occur as it has for the last 40 years and more.
A Work of Change
If you sat down with someone and had a positive discussion of events that have transpired in God's Work over the last 42 years, you would use the word change frequently. You would find it adequately descriptive. You would, talk about every aspect of the Work from the development and growth of The World Tomorrow radio broadcast, personal appearance work by Mr. Herbert Armstrong in the early years, the fantastic success story of the founding of Ambassador College, opening additional campuses, Plain Truth growth and format changes, international work development, the reorientation of the GN, Mr. Armstrong's current meeting of world leaders and having many meetings to expand "the way of God," etc., etc. — all of which proves we have the ability to cope with change. Mr. Armstrong made a very significant statement in his autobiography (page 455): "All I had in mind, as The World Tomorrow program was being planned late in 1933, was to serve God faithfully wherever He should lead in that local territory of Lane County, Oregon.... "But, I most certainly did not sit down, in the fall of 1933, and lay out detailed plans in my human mind for a great, powerful, earth-encircling program to reach and influence the millions in every nation; there was no thought, then, of a gigantic radio program, and a publishing enterprise, starting in Eugene, Oregon, but soon expanding to every inhabited continent.... "No, this work, in the sense of the magnitude to which it has developed, was not of my planning or vision. This is the very Work of God, and the vision behind it has been that of Jesus Christ — the planning, His. I was merely His instrument." From those early days the Work has made great progress. When it became clear we were headed into a box canyon, we changed. Most importantly the Work adapted, it grew. We were and are coping with change!