A Gent For Change (Image Vol 12 No 4 – July/Aug 1996)

By Matt Dabbs

By Mike Root
Ft. Worth, Texas

It was a bright Sunday morning in Troas, probably around 10:0 or 11:00, the traditional time for church. (It was actually Saturday evening, but it’s hard for us to identify with that.) After the opening prayer, they had communion – the koinonia feast – where they all together broke bread an drank grape juice, each one in his or her own private meditative world. Once the invitation song was announced, they all turned their attention to Paul, the visiting preacher, who obviously wasn’t worried about lunch or dinner since he preached until midnight (when it finally did become Sunday).

It was during this time that we come across the young whipper-snapper Eutychus. Now I know the Bible doesn’t say much about him, but it seems clear to me, and the evidence seems to indicate, that he was one of those “wild-eyed, liberal Change Agents.” Let’s look at what we know abou Euty form the facts in Scripture and things we can deduce (which we know are just as important as the facts).

First, he was clearly unspiritual. How else can you explain his “sinking into a deep sleep…as Paul kept on talking?” He obviously had no idea how important the event was. Clearly he hadn’t planned ahead by getting enough sleep so he would be in an alert state of mind. Actually, he was being hypocritical because he was present, but still “forsaking the assembly” in his heart and mind. Not only was he showing disrespect for Paul but also for God, because the Bible clearly says in 1 Corinthians 14:25 “that God is certainly among you” when you meet for worship. And what about Jesus? He’s there when “two or three are gathered in [his] name,” so old Euty was ignoring the presence of Christ! (Matt. 18:20).

Second, not only was he unspiritual, he was unscriptural. Where is the biblical authority for the addition of sleeping in the worship. The Bible is silent, so that settles it once and for all! And when we fell out of that their-story window, because of his selfish desire to do only what he wanted, he disrupted the entire worship service. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not a God of confusion,” and this guy was causing some serious confusion. Also, he violated the Scripture, “But let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Cor. 14:40). Did he obey that Scripture? No! He grabbed all the attention, even though “God is not one to show partiality” (Acts 10:34).

Let everyone know and mark this man for what he was – a Change Agent. He did two things at the same time in the assembly, and he did a solo act, and he did it all before the closing prayer! Hand the Heretic!

I’m sure someone is saying that right now – not about Eutychus, but about Mike Root. Before you go for the rope, let me ask you one question: Do you have any idea how often what I’ve done is done to Acts 20:7-12 is done to a 1996 Sunday morning assembly? The judging, the accusing, the leaps in logic, the labeling, the name calling, and the misuse of Scripture? Once would be too much, but unfortunately it takes place in thousands of congregations across the country every Sunday. This kind of biblical butchery is preached from some of our pulpits and printed in a few of our publications. When something new in the realm of expediency is introduced into our worship service, too often, instead of simply expressing disapproval, we accuse the Changer of trashing tradition, bringing in “strange fire,” and threatening the whole fabric of New Testament Christianity. They don’t just have a preference for something different, they are unbiblical, liberal, uncaraing, antielderly, heritage-hating, change-for-change sake destroyers of the truth. Merely suggesting that God has given us the freedom to do something different in our assemblies than what was done fifty years ago is enough to get quickly labeled as a Change Agent.

We could solve all this by honestly answering one question: Was Jesus a Change Agent? Are you comfortable labeling him? Or maybe you don’t think he was a Change Agent. If that’s the case you’re very wrong. Still, I suspect that even the most hard core name callers recognize that Jesus instigated radical change. “But,” you may say, he’s Jesus, and we know his motives were pure.” Okay. But who gave you the right to assume that 1996 Change Agents have anything bur pure motives?

One recent brotherhood publication described today’s Change Agents as having a “loathing for and a repudiation of one’s own heritage.” Wow, and I thought only God could read the hearts of people. Did you ever stop to think that a deep love for our Restoration heritage is the reason some of us keep trying to help us be “simply and only a New Testament church”? When did we give up on that goal? When did we arrive and completely accomplish that task?

Some of us are getting a little tired of hearing about the richness of our traditions. It seems to me that it’s the height of pride to declare that being a defender of tradition is the same as being a defender of the truth. Sure, many great things come from traditions. I have family traditions, national traditions, and even congregational traditions; but the relationships they help bond are not dependent on them for survival. I don’t believe in change for change’s sake, but it’s not any worse than tradition for tradition’s sake. Yet today, A Faithful Preacher is one who upholds traditions, while a preacher who has a new idea is a Change Agent. What happened to being simply a gospel preacher, who becomes “all things to all people that [he] by all means might save some?”

More passion and energy is used to defend our traditions than to reach the lost. What are we defending? Are we proud of our declining or dying churches? Are we thrilled with our record of losing over half our young people before they reach adulthood? Are we happy about our tradition of divisiveness, intolerance, legalism, and guilt? If we had some track record of success to hold on to, I could understand the “fight-to-the-death” attitude about our traditions, but I don’t see that. And yet I continually hear, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Brethren, something is broken – souls, hearts, and a contract with God to hold up Jesus and Jesus only.

Life is constantly changing. Growth is change. Becoming Christ-like demands change. So what’s the problem with change? I understand fear of change, but how many ears does one need to be a Christian before “perfect love casts out fear?” I understand what it means to need the security of sameness; but how many years do people need to be Christian before their security is found in Christ who “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” and through whom we can do “all things”? I understand the value of our wonderful heritage, but I also understand that we are but strangers and sojourners in a strange land.

Please be careful when you feel tempted to malign the motives of those who want to see some changes. I have never suggested a change that was not first a serious heart struggle for me. I have preached hundreds more times on unity, peace and tolerance than I have on the need for change. I love the Word of God. My teachers twenty-five years ago impressed on  me the need to be accurate, consistent, and loyal to the Bible. I believe it’s important to speak where the Bible speaks, but I also believe i must speak all of it, and not just what makes me comfortable. The Restoration plea is alive and well in the hearts of those of us who were taught it decades ago. Maybe you taught it to us. Aren’t you glad we listened?

Personally, I don’t need change! I’m happy with God, I love my brethren, and I could stay comfortable in a 1950s style worship for the rest of my life. My faith and relationship with God doesn’t depend on one hour Sunday morning. I could be happy doing whatever kept my brethren happy and edified. What I can’t do is watch the next generation, including my three teenagers, dread coming to church – and maybe stop coming altogether. What I can’t do it ignore the lost souls in my community who see nothing relevant in our fifty-year-old style of worship. So I grieve, I pray, and I try my best to determine what God wants me to do, and sometimes it hurts. Brethren can be awfully mean, you know. like when they call me a Change Agent – not because I’m like Jesus – but because they feel threatened and need a name to call me.

I wonder what Paul would do about Change Agents? This is what he did about Eutychus: “Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He’s alive!'” (Acts 20:10).

categoria commentoNo Comments dataFebruary 27th, 2017
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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1597 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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