Leadership Lessons: The Leader as Change Agent 2

Change introduces all kinds of ambiguities and uncertainties that make people feel unsafe:

  • About the future
  • About what is expected of them
  • About possibility of conflict
  • About whether things will be out of control (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it mentality is fatal for churches)
  • Will their status be reduced
  • Will they be overloaded and stressed

All of which affects morale and willingness to embrace the future if they are received negatively. Likely consequences and coping mechanisms include: fighting change, confusion, criticism

In all of this the leader is the key factor for minimising the negative and leading for the positive. Therefore the key question is: what does the leader need to bring to the table to build trust and confidence in new direction?

There are all kinds fo factos that make change much more difficult in a church than in other kinds of organisations:

  • It is a Voluntary association
  • People have a right of say may not be committed to gospel vision or leadership; ie the decision-making process is out of the hands of leaders; the fringe is allowed as much say as biblical core
  • People have joined on the basis of something they find attractive, and might not stay if change challenges that. Change itself might be enough to lose people if they have joined for the attraction of unchanging stability
  • Hard to incentivise change with remuneration, as in the business world
  • People tend to be passive receivers rather than active participants in vision and purpose
  • People can be unclear about organisational goals, aims and structures, more so than in a business
  • People think their stakeholding means they have as much say as leaders

 Or, to summarise:


  • Individual inertia: Individual self-interest, and self-perception about why I am here
  • Structural inertia: Activities perceived to be the essence that makes church attractive rather than gospel vision; outdated but unchangeable structures and strategies from a previous age
  • Vision inertia: Lack of clarity of purpose
  • Leader inertia: factors that make leaders unwilling or unable to lead


All of which are likely to demotivate change and paralyse. 

Whatever it is that Christian leaders bring to the table to help change happen, it has to derive from basic biblical principles: the godness of God, the glory of Christ, the wonder of the biblical gospel. I like to think of the leader being the following, therefore:


  • The one who deals in core motivations, aligning people to Christ and Christ’s purposes
  • The one who clarifies need for change with clear gospel vision
  • The one who helps others understand and embrace godly opportunity with clear communication
  • The one who focuses cooperative teamwork with enthusiasm and joy in God
  • The one who smoothes transition with wisdom and the affection of Christ
  • The one who absorbs angst with prayerfulness, compassion and kindness, minimising future distress and disturbance


If gospel change is resisted, then we need to carefully analyse where the barrier is. It will usually be lack of one or more of the elements above. For my money I would spend most time on what are the motivation factors and whether people’s motivations are aligned to Christ.