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Riding the Waves of Cultural Change

Cultural Trends Adaptability Church Health/Growth

Source: HITTING A MOVING TARGET by Rick Ezell, pp. 34-35, as retold in MORE PERFECT ILLUSTRATIONS FOR EVERY TYPE OF OCCASION compiled by, pp. 30-31.

Link to Source: Click here to view source

Contributed By: Illustration Exchange | Date Posted: 2014-05-07

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:22

Author: Editors,


If your church attendance is slipping and your ministries are drying up, consider the following story:

Travel back 50 years to the mahogany-paneled office of Sewell Avery, then chairman of Montgomery Ward & Company. Avery was responsible for Ward’s failure to open a single new store form 1941 to 1957. Instead, the big retailer piles up cash—and then sat on it. Ward’s amassed $607 million even then a very large sum of money!, earning them a dubious Wall Street nickname: "the bank with the department store front."

So why didn’t Avery join in the nation’s postwar expansion by following Americans to the suburbs? He held firmly to the belief and vision that a depression had followed every major war since the time of Napoleon. “Who am I to argue with history?’ Avery demanded. “Why build $14-a-foot buildings when we soon can do it for $3-a-foot?”

On the other side of Chicago, Ward’s rival, Sears, Roebuck & Company, had a different idea. In 1946, Sears gambled its future and began a costly expansion into suburbia. Had another depression occurred, Sears would have been financially devastated. Instead, Sears doubled its revenues while Ward’s stood still. Sears never looked back, and Ward’s never caught up. In fact, Ward’s eventually went bankrupt.

How could corporate planning go so wrong? Montgomery Ward’s postwar troubles sprang from its firm adherence to an idea from a different time and culture. Because Sewell Avery thought a depression would follow World War II, and because he failed to see that middle-America was moving to the suburbs, he misread the cultural waves and consequently his business was wiped out.

Christian leaders also, and not just business executives, need to read the waves of cultural change.


It is interesting to note that since the original penning of this illustration just over a decade ago, Sears, Roebuck & Company is now itself in danger of going the way of Montgomery Ward. It's reported that by the end of last year (2011), profits were considerably down, and the former retail giant was looking at closing more than 100 stores nationwide. The poor performance points to "deepening problems at this struggling chain and renewed worries about Sears survivability," said Gary Balter, an analyst at Credit Suisse. …But the big problem, analysts say, is "Sears hasn't invested in remodeling, leaving its stores uninviting."

The lesson here is that "reading and riding! the waves of cultural change" is not a one-time adjustment, but an ongoing process. Churches which once rolled with the waves and introduced "Jesus music" in the 1970s are still singing the same, tired worship choruses, causing today's young people to roll their eyes, rather than causing them to lift their eyes to the heavens. 

Jesus and His message are the same yesterday, today and forever. But the way we present that message to an ever changing world must be continually fresh. We must always be willing to "remodel" if we are to remain culturally relevant.

"I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Illustration Exchange

An Enterprising Town Rises Above Adversity

Adversity Spiritual Growth Adaptability

Source: City of Enterprise, Alabama, website

Link to Source: Click here to view source

Contributed By: Illustration Exchange | Date Posted: 2013-04-19

Scripture: James 1:2

Author: Illustration Exchange


The city of Enterprise, Alabama, calls itself the "City of Progress." Founded in the 1880s by John Henry Carmichael, it is a proud little town that still today revels in its ability to move forward and thrive despite hardship.

Initially, cotton was at the heart of this community's prosperity. But by 1915, the progress and prosperity of Enterprise were both threatened by an invading force that that was literally eating the little town alive. The boll weevil had made its way from Texas into the cotton crops of Coffee County and nearly 60% of the Enterprise's cotton production was destroyed.

Their town motto, "Pull for Enterprise, or pull out!" rang loud and true, as the small town pulled together to forge new avenues of productivity. The town turned to peanuts and other hearty crops unsusceptible to the bothersome vermin. By 1917, Coffee County produced and harvested more peanuts than any other county in the nation.

From the town's own website:

In gratitude for the lessons taught, residents erected the world's only monument to an agricultural pest, the Boll Weevil Monument. The monument, dedicated on December 11, 1919, stands in the center of the downtown district at the intersection of Main Street and College Street. The Boll Weevil Monument is a symbol of man's willingness and ability to adjust to adversity. Citizens continue to remind visitors and newcomers to the city the lesson of the boll weevil.

The base of the monument is inscribed: "In profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama."


The enterprising town of Enterprise learned a lesson of truly biblical proportion--to "count it all joy when you encounter various kinds of trials" (James 1:2). They allowed the testing of their town to produce endurance--and, in this case, a bumper crop of peanuts! Just another example of how disappointment is often the gateway to a greater experience of grace.

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing" (James 1:2-4, NLT).

Fire Burns as Rabbi Thinks

Legalism Adaptability Law (of God)

Source: Wichita, KS Eagle, 4/26/1982, p. 4A

Contributed By: Rod Crowell | Date Posted: 2012-10-06

Scripture: Matthew 23:1

Author: Rod Crowell


Tenants let their apartments burn while they asked a rabbi whether a call to the fire department on the Sabbath would violate Jewish law.  Three apartments were gutted in the fire in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, but no one was hurt.  Normal Jewish law considers using the telephone on the Sabbath work because it involves the breaking of an electric current.  They are, however, permitted to break the Sabbath in case of an emergency, which required a rabbinical ruling.  They contacted the rabbi; thirty minutes later, he said yes.


No one in this pluralistic age is quick to condemn anyone for their beliefs, but Jesus had some hefty criticism for the Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-4.  He said that "they tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."  While one may admire the rabbi's deliberation in the attempt to correctly apply Jewish law to the Sabbath, it's pretty clear to most reasonable people that a fire constitutes an emergency on ANY day of the week.  What a burden--to have to replace all your worldly goods due to such a technicality!

Let's follow Jesus' example and be flexible and compassionate in our response to other's needs and emergencies!

The QWERTY Configuration

Legalism Adaptability Problem Solving

Contributed By: Illustration Exchange | Date Posted: 2012-07-19

Scripture: Matthew 9:17

Author: Roger Von Oech

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Coconut IVs

Salvation Adaptability Blood (of Jesus)

Contributed By: Illustration Exchange | Date Posted: 2012-02-13

Scripture: Isaiah 53:5 ; 1 Peter 2:24

Author: Philip Yancey

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That's How We've Allows Done It

Fact or Fiction? Stubbornness Adaptability

Contributed By: Illustration Exchange | Date Posted: 2011-06-10

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:22

Author: Illustration Exchange

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Getting Ahead of God

Guidance Patience Submission

Contributed By: James Augustine | Date Posted: 2020-05-10

Scripture: Psalms 139:24 ; Psalms 5:8

Author: James Augustine

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Rejecting Jesus' Authority

Jesus' Authority Submission Rebellion

Contributed By: Shane Waldron | Date Posted: 2019-10-12

Scripture: Proverbs 28:25 ; Jeremiah 17:7

Author: Shane Waldron

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Pressure to Conform

Conformity Fellowship Transformation

Contributed By: Stephen Kingsley | Date Posted: 2019-01-29

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:14 ; Romans 12:2

Author: Stephen Kingsley

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"The Moscow Rules"

Satan Spiritual Warfare Submission

Contributed By: Neal Pollard | Date Posted: 2018-12-29

Scripture: James 4:7 ; 2 Corinthians 2:11

Author: Neal Pollard

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