In the process of change we are inviting people to embrace a different concept of themselves, of their role, their purpose for being in the church, their interactions with others, the purpose of the group and maybe their reputation. Change is a big ask, in other words. We are inviting them to move form the comfortable to the uncomfortable, the known to the unknown, form inaction to action, form areas where they feel skill to ones in which they feel deskilled.
It may be that you have people who are inactive but like the sense of being pillars of the church because they are always there. That is to mistake attendance for faithfulness. People in this situation are spiritually immature attenders who pretend to be mature. Change is likely to expose them which, of course, they will resist.
There will be others who assume that biblical church is exactly what they already have. After all they signed up to join, so it must already tick that box for them. Therefore change is likely to equate in their minds to something less biblical rather than more. 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 (the "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 and 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?
I think of the change-making leader as the one who:
- Deals in core motivations, helping the congregation align their motivations to Christ and Christ's purposes
- Clarifies present and future need with biblically-driven future vision
- Helps others understand and embrace godly opportunity through clear communication
- Focuses cooperative teamwork with enthusiasm and joy in God
- Smooths transition with wisdom and the affection of Christ
- Absorbs angst with prayerfulness, compassion and kindness, minimising future distress