The Seven Last Words of a Dying Church [School]?

Tim Van SoelenCACE Studies1 Comment

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The original version of this sentence used the word “church” instead of “school” but I hope you will permit me the substitution in order to stimulate your reflection on this statement. According to my research (although the sentence does show up in a number of references), D.E. Parkerson, a Baptist minister from North Carolina, coined the phrase in this narrative that he shares:

Many years ago, in a new pastorate, I changed the order of service for the observance of the Lord’s Supper in order to give it the sole emphasis. In this church it had previously been an addendum, not the main focus of worship. The Lord’s Supper, if observed properly and in the right spirit, is the highest form of worship.

A deacon in the church asked me why I had made the change. I gave my reason, and then asked him why he did not like the change. He replied, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Like many Christians, he resisted any change at all. That is why his reply has often been described as “The Seven Last Words of a Dying Church.” Interesting how change and changeless come together here.

We obviously live in a changing world. Consider a few of the following realities: the world’s largest taxi company, Uber, does not own one vehicle. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, owns no product. Some fairly significant changes in the world order, the way we do business.

Yet, whether we are ready to admit it or not, it seems to be part of our human nature to resist change. We fear the loss of control, the uncertainty of different, the additional work, the ripple effects, or maybe the reality that change can hurt. It can result in lost jobs, fewer programs or different ways to teach and learn. When we are accustomed to the way things are, we become comfortable. It is easy to resist change.

There is, however, an inherent danger in becoming too comfortable and too resistant to change. Dr. Syd Hielema, the Team Leader for Faith Formation Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, often shares this line when he speaks of Christ’s work, “He came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” When Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come,” it was an invitation to bring about change.

Neither individuals nor schools as a whole can grow without change. The six schools that CACE has been working closely with for the past year have changed. From physical locations to different tuition models to board governance structures to changes in leadership to new marketing and enrollment management practices. Just to name a few. Change certainly has the power to cause suffering, failure, or even tragedy. But change can also mean joy, achievement, and growth.

Changes must take place — from amendments to the Constitution to the way we meet the needs of every student in our classroom to the financial strategies we employ to create healthy schools — because situations and needs change.  Though change is necessary for growth to take place, we must never falter in our commitment to the values that are changeless. No church [school] and no individual should ever be afraid of change as long as they remain committed to Christ and to the changeless truth found in God’s Word – Parkerson.


  • Tim Van Soelen

    Dr. Tim Van Soelen serves as the Director of CACE. Tim is also a professor of education at Dordt University. He has served as a principal, assistant principal, and middle school math and computer teacher at schools in South Dakota and California. Tim has his undergraduate degree from Dordt and advanced degrees from Azusa Pacific University and the University of South Dakota.

One Comment on “The Seven Last Words of a Dying Church [School]?”

  1. Am glad that this encouragement has melt all my doubts and fear. I was posted to a considerable larger Congregation lately, and they are insisting that I should follow the trend I met. They have outrightly resisted all the changes I want to effect.

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