1) Changes are taking place in our physical church campus. As I drove in this morning, I made note of several things. At this point in the process, the outside of our church sanctuary is a mess. The big window in the back is boarded up. There is a fence around the eastern side of the parking lot. There are piles of dirt everywhere. The green space beside the fellowship hall is torn up. And this is just the beginning. In the coming weeks, interior walls are going to disappear. The kitchen is going to be unusable. The carpet in the sanctuary will be ripped up. The sound booth will be removed. Chairs will be re-arranged almost every Sunday. Big columns will be installed to support the new balcony. And things will most likely get a little worse before they get better.
2) Changes are taking place in our congregation. This year we have had more people go to be with the Lord than any season since I arrived thirteen years ago. In the last two years, we have also had a significant turnover in our church staff as we have said goodbye to Tim and Joyce Smith, Justin and Angie Woodall, Charlie and DJ Phillips, and Ryan Samuels. Some church members have left. Lots of new people have come. Just this past Easter Sunday, we said goodbye to many of our snowbirds and Canadian friends. Yet, in just a few weeks, over 60 college kids from Campus Outreach will join us.
3) Changes are taking place in our community. Have you noticed? The city of Myrtle Beach GROWING! In our area of Surfside a new bridge is being built – to the south of our church property on Hwy 17 Bypass – over Holmestown Road and Glenn’s Bay Road. Several restaurants are moving in within walking distance of our campus – Cookout, Panera Bread, and Chipotle. Right across the street from our church property a new Publix will be built, along with 250 new homes. Wow!
4) Changes are taking place in us and our families. Change is taking place in our bodies as we grow older, move slower, and look different than we did last year. Our families change as kids leave or marry and parents get older and pass away. Our minds change as we learn and grow and see things differently. And our hearts change as Christ slowly, but surely, transforms us by his grace to love him more and to love sin less.
Now, I don’t know if all these changes excite you or discourage you. I don’t know if you embrace change with arms wide open, or with clenched teeth. I don’t know if these things cause you to smile or to grimace. In my experience – for me – it’s a little of both. I imagine that the disciples felt them same way as they experienced both pain and pleasure when Jesus told them, “My Father’s house has many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:2-3).” Christ made it clear that change was taking place. He was going away. But he assured them, that even though there may be sorrow in the process – even though it may be messy in the middle – the end result would be glorious. In the same way, I have often heard the quote, “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” As Christians, you and I have every guarantee that this true.
The changes in our lives that Christ brings are incredibly hard at the beginning. Then they are very messy in the middle. But, Christ promises us that all will be gorgeous at the end of all things. As Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “All things are working together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” C.S. Lewis echoes Paul’s thought saying, “Some say of temporal suffering that ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even every agony into a glory.” In the Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien poetically builds this idea further. Tolkien says, “(There is coming a day) when everything sad will come untrue.” What a beautiful truth.
So, with those things in mind, let’s learn to embrace the journey of the Christian life. Change is supposed to happen. It is inevitable. In the coming weeks at SPC, as chairs get moved around and you can’t find your regular seat in the sanctuary, as carpet gets pulled up, and as mounds of dirt may be piled in your favorite parking space – remember, that for the Christian: Change is hard in the beginning, Messy in the middle, but it will be gorgeous in the end.
Soli Deo Gloria,