Over my first 25 years of pastoral ministry I have always been one to initiate change. Like Arby's restaurants, I believe that often "different is better." And as we would advocate change in our ministry I would always find myself frustrated at those who resisted change. Can't they see that to reach people effectively today we can't do ministry the way we always have? Any time change occurred, there was always a group that was "less then excited." To be honest, I never could really understand that group.
But last week I found myself in that group. My son, who is a student at Liberty University, sent me a video of the demolition of a building on campus called "The Schilling Center." They are tearing down this building to make room for a new state of the art library. As I watched the video I found a "resistance" rising up within me.
25 years ago I graduated from Liberty University after spending 4 wonderful years on that campus. And during those 4 years, the Schilling Center was the main hub of campus activity. Watching the video, all kinds of memories raced through my mind that took place inside that wonderful building.
I remembered listening to Dr Falwell preach in chapel week in and week out!
I remembered sitting through Evangelism class with Dr C Sumner Wemp and Old Testament Survey class with Dr Ed Hindson!
I remembered attending Sunday Night Church services with Dr Ed Dobson preaching through the Beatitudes using his dog, Rosie, as an illustration each week!
I remembered yelling, screaming and throwing rolls of toilet paper on the floor at all of the exciting basketball games, especially against our rivals back then, Longwood College and Mt St Mary!
I remembered being in the assembly one Tuesday evening when Senator Ted Kennedy addressed the student body!
I remembered as a Resident Assistant having to go forward to counsel one night during Spiritual Emphasis Week and getting my foot caught in my girlfriend's (now my wife's) handbag resulting in my unknowingly dragging it all the way up the aisle!
I remembered getting selected as Preacher of the Year my Senior Year and getting to preach in chapel in front of all the students, faculty and staff with Dr Falwell sitting on stage behind me!
I remembered walking across the stage and shaking Dr Falwell's hand and getting my diploma and then being immediately greeted with open arms by my Grandpa Distler who was a preacher for over 50 years before going home to be with the Lord!
As these and many more memories raced through my mind I wanted to yell out, "Don't do it!" Suddenly I was on the other side of change. Suddenly I was part of those who resisted.
But then I took time to look at the architect's drawings of what this new Jerry Falwell Memorial Library was going to look like - it really will be amazing (the third picture above)!! I took time to read comments from students on campus today who are very excited about the change that is coming - they really do need a bigger and better library! I took the time to realize that, though the Schilling Center was very special to me 25 years ago, today it is not the hub of student activity like it was when I was on campus. I had to admit that this change for Liberty is a very good change!
I will miss seeing the Shilling Center when I go down to Liberty for my daughter's graduation from Liberty this May but I understand why the change is happening. I understand that Liberty is a much different place today and college life is a much different life then when I was a student a quarter century ago. I have reminded myself what I have been reminding those resistant to change in my churches for the past 25 years - that often, change really us better.
Yes, I will miss seeing the Shilling Center the next time I return to Liberty but I am now really looking forward to soon being able to walk through the new Jerry Falwell Memorial Library. Who knows, maybe I'll even put my foot through wife's purse and drag it around behind me as I take my first walk through the building...just for old time's sake!