Leadership Lessons: The Leader as Change Agent 1

Here are 7 reasons why change might be necessary in a church:

  • Some area is not as good as it could be (regardless of whether lots of people like it that way)
  • The church culture is not currently in the present day and relating to current realities
  • The church has embraced a chaplaincy mindset rather than prophetic community understanding of itself – ie a wrong understanding of what the local church is
  • The church is out of touch with surrounding community or culture, therefore deals with the world by withdrawal or avoidance out of distaste
  • Some problem arises that needs fresh solutions – eg growth to the limit of current structures
  • The church is structurally set up for favourite activities to satisfy the faithful rather than for gospel vision
  • Comfort has replaced kingdom growth, satisfaction with unchanging status quo

All organisations plateau when there isn’t a constant requirement to change. In the business sphere it’s easy to see where the drivers come from, because everyone knows the environment is competitive. Constantly adapt to new challenges or die. It is the same on a battlefield.

The Christian life is a battlefield, but unless missional priorities are always at the fore, led and taught and practiced all the time, it is the easiest thing for the mindset of the church to shift from battlefield to care home. External mission is replaced with internal church life, missional priorities with comfort and maintenance. At that point your church is dying, even if it currently has a good semblance of life.

Kingdom growth involves constant change by definition. A church that wants to be in exactly the same place in 10 years time is extremely complacent and will atrophy. Leaders are the people who mainly expect to receive and shape God-given vision and direction for where the church and its mission can and should be in the future. Change, however, is the biggest threat to stable organisational life so being able to lead through change is critical to church and kingdom growth. Whether leaders are allowed to lead for change, and how they do so, will determine whether a church develops for future gospel extension or concretises itself in a past reality.

If spiritual leadership involves knowing what God wants for people in his local congregation, using God’s methods to get them there, and relying on God’s power to do it, then the process of change and the methods of initiating change that are available to us are not necessarily the same as they are in a business or other organisation. It doesn’t start from the same roots and it doesn’t have the same goals.

Organisational change in churches starts with spiritual roots. Roots of Godliness, and spiritual perception and hunger for God. That is the baseline starting point. If you meet situations where it seems impossible to bring necessary change because of the sheer degree of resistance, that is the first area we have to question and pray and teach into. Gospel-centred change emerges out of gospel-centred convictions about God, about ourselves, about the church and its purpose. 

If you don’t believe that the purpose of the church is to declare God’s excellencies to a dying world, then any call to change it to produce that is threatening. If you think that activities are good in and of themselves regardless of any connection with glorifying God, magnifying him and drawing attention to him, then you will never be able to stop those activities or replace them with ones that do.

Unless the reality of God’s promises grip people they won’t adjust their lives to base all they do on them. Unless the grace of God in Christ is thrilling them, they won’t attempt new things with an attendant risk of failure, because they are content with the way things are.

In the process of change we are inviting people to embrace a different concept of themselves, their role, their purpose for being in the church, their interactions with others, the purpose of the group, their reputation. We are inviting them to move from:

  • the comfortable to the uncomfortable
  • the known to the unknown
  • inaction to action
  • areas where they feel skilled to areas in which they feel deskilled