Being willing to change is a sign of healthy church.
By Danny Zachariah, National Director India
A common refrain we hear about change is that it is a permanent reality of life. Two more familiar phrases: change is difficult and resisted; there is no growth without change. These phrases are all undoubtedly true, especially in the dynamic environment we are living in today. On the other hand, all change is not necessarily helpful. New is not always good. Fads come and go. Innovation only for name’s sake disturbs the congregation.
If our denominational congregations are moving in the direction of becoming the “best expression of the church of Jesus Christ they can be,” then a commitment to a gradual, consistent change towards transformation should indeed be the new normal for us. As we begin a new year, perhaps two thoughts on change could help us recognize when and how it is healthy.
Mission and method
Jim Cowart, author and pastor, in his article, Mission is Constant but Methods must Change, states,
The mission of the church doesn’t change. In fact, we can’t change the mission of the church because it’s not our church. It’s God’s … We can’t vote on it. We don’t need a meeting to revise it. The mission is set … But methods are different. Methods need to change. In fact, they must change in order to carry out the mission among new generations. Methods don’t have the same status as mission.
The mission and vision of our denomination represents its core values. While faithfully upholding them, could a changing scenario on the ground prompt us to continuously evaluate the methods we employ in fulfilling them? As I write, many countries in the world are experiencing socio-political shifts where religion and its institutions are coming under pressure to conform or compromise. We are forced to find new methods to preach the good news in the face of prejudice and restrictions. As a denomination moving towards greater maturity in Christ, being intentionally contemporary and innovative will contribute not only to the health of the organization, but to its relevance in a changing world. This can be done without compromising theological integrity.
Change and transformation
Tod Bolsinger, pastor and church consultant, states: “Leadership is energizing a community of people toward their own transformation in order to accomplish a shared mission in the face of a changing world.” He believes that transformation is both individual and corporate. His pitch is for “communal transformation for mission,” so that all participate to “collectively … fulfill the mission they, corporately have been given.”
When leaders intentionally and willingly embrace meaningful change, he or she models a paradigm towards transformation. Such leaders motivate the team in adapting to change and, in turn, inspires the congregation in the direction of transformation. Leadership that develops a structure that encourages and adapts to change will build a progressive mindset in the congregation to move on towards the maturity that is the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). Church leaders thus have a great responsibility. Being resistant to change and/or striving to maintain the status quo may not only make it painful when change ultimately becomes inevitable, the congregation is also deprived of a healthy example of leadership that is sensitive to the lead of the Holy Spirit.
GCI has a rich legacy of dealing with and managing change. We can be grateful for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and the courage of humble compliance to that divine inspiration on the part of our leadership, which has led to the great spiritual transformation of our denomination, aptly lauded by Dr. Gordon E Kirk:
“You now have the picture of one of the most dramatic works of God in our century, the Worldwide Church of God, under the leadership of Joseph Tkach, transformed from human cultic teaching to the supernatural gospel of truth.” 
May we always be true to this legacy. Let us be inspired by it and encourage change when it is necessary, meaningful, and contributes to the health of the congregation. This will help us continue the journey where GCI churches can have the opportunity to become the best expression of the church of Jesus Christ they can be in this world.
 Bolsinger, T. E. (2015). Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press
 Tkach, Joseph, Transformed by Truth, Multnomah Publishers, OR, 1997, Acknowledgements.