Constant & Purposeful Change

When I am fortunate enough to have an annual passport, I go to Disneyland several times throughout that year.

Taking trips at many different times reveals that Disneyland is always changing. Different seasons are met with changing plants and flowers, decorations, fireworks, and sometimes even characters (right now, there are several villains roaming the park and some staple characters in costume for Halloween). They even go so far as to completely redo some rides for Halloween and Christmas–and I mean completely redo. Seasons are observed and celebrated with change all over the park.

One of my best friends gave me a book on Disneyland for my first (aka paper) anniversary. It describes in detail the attractions and shops around the park that are, that were, and that never will be. I’m struck by how many major changes have happened. I’m also struck by how often things just didn’t work (hello, Rocket Rods). Disney has had to change, update, or completely remove several attractions because they just didn’t work out.

On the other hand, Disney is also careful to preserve many attractions that are dearly loved. Even though technology has vastly improved, the Tiki Room and Haunted Mansion retain much of their original charm.

On the occasion that a beloved attraction is removed, characters and elements often will pop up somewhere else in the park as a tribute (e.g. the animals from America Sings grace the finale of Splash Mountain). Sometimes they even return, such as the animatronic President Lincoln.

All these elements point to the fact that Disneyland both knows how to change without losing touch with its roots. Change is not a four-letter word, but a way to celebrate significant events and effectively accomplish their mission.

One of my prayers is that, as a Church, we don’t forget the past. Church history has taught me that there really aren’t new controversies, heresies, and challenges; we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We have a wealth of history, writings, and music that are relevant to us today. I hope we don’t lose it simply because it’s old.

I also pray that we don’t keep things just because they’re “the way things are done.” It’s liberating to realize that there’s more than one way to reach the world and as our world changes, so should some of our methods.

Change is expected and seems to be moving faster with every passing year. The pressure in churches is to either refuse to change or change simply for the sake of changing. Both extremes lack wisdom. We need the discernment to see what is helpful and the courage to change no matter what the backlash.

Do we embrace change that can make us more effective at our mission? Do we embrace elements of the past that can make us more effective at our mission? Do we let go of the things that aren’t effective anymore?

Up Next: What Disneyland Can’t Teach the Church

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