Posts Tagged With: change

How I Plan to Navigate an Established Church Through Change

Change  in a church or any organization is scary–and not just for those of the older persuasion.  I mean, that’s the stereotype: the senior adults of a church usually take umbrage with change.  Not so!  Change is scary for many in the church.  The unknown is all that’s known during the process.  The younger generations wonder if the change will really help the cause of Christ, and become anxiety-filled in wondering if this process will really move things forward or find resistance to such a degree that it’s not worth it. 

Our church called me as Lead Pastor (I know, the title is ‘senior’ pastor, but, hey, I’m 42–I’m not a ‘senior’ anything yet) and for the first 18 months, I kept my word and didn’t change much.  I spent time loving and getting to know our people as best as possible (not perfectly, but that was my ambition), and preached the unvarnished Word of God being led by His Spirit in using this earthen vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

Yet, all churches and church members need to grow (we can’t stay put, can we?) and all churches need to God (Christ said so, didn’t He?), and so we continually evaluate what we could do better, what we must begin doing, and what is an obstacle to what needs doing.  How do we navigate through change in a church?  Let’s use the acronym CHANGE to help understand this process.

Here’s my plan:

Christ and community:  Do the changes help us better connect with Christ  and connect with the community around us? 

Head and heart:  Do the changes connect with us personally in our head (yes, we need these changes) and our heart (are we emotionally and spiritually ready to make these changes, or do our spirits resist these? If so, why?  What challenges arise?  What threat do they pose?  Is the end result in our hearts worth the process of losing some of what we have now?)

Approachable and applicable:  Are the changes achievable (to use another ‘a’)?  Are they something that we can do?  Are there short-term, easier changes we can make now to gain momentum for changes in the future?  Are these changes for changes’ sake, or do they apply to a true obstacle or issue the church is facing? 

Navigable:  Are we as church leaders ready to communicate where we shall navigate?  Are we as church leaders ready to help you navigate through the calm and/or stormy waters in this sea of change–or are we as leaders wanting to stay docked in a safe harbor?  When we do (notice the word ‘when’) pull out of the safety of the harbor, will we as church leaders recognize the needed pace by which to navigate?  And will we all be willing to be led by the Spirit and have ears to hear what he is saying to the church (Revelation 2-3)?

Gradual with gravity:  Pace.  That’s the word.  Will we recognize the necessary pace, finding the tension between being gradual (not glacial) and conveying the gravity of needed change? 

Edifying and engaging:  Are we willing to grow on the inside (edify–which means to build up) to go on the outside (engaging)?  We’ve come full circle to Christ (growing in Him) and culture (going for Him, in His name). 

Whatever change takes place, may we do so by

(1)  Engaging His Word
(2)  Engaging Him in prayer
(3)  Engaging His people.
(4)  Engaging the lost. 

What think ye?  How does change in your church affect you? 

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How My Pastor Friend’s Death Changed Me

2014-03-20 08.05.55 Almost two months ago, my friend Tommy Rucker took his own life.  To say this affected me would be an understatement.  In preaching his funeral, God permitted me to sort through a number of theological issues surrounding his death—as well as talk to the family and friends of Tommy that I hadn’t seen in over a decade. 

But funerals end.  Lives have to go on.  A wife has to pick up the pieces.  Children and grandchildren have to proceed without their dad and grandfather in the picture anymore.  Awful! 

I cannot speak on the subject of all of Tommy’s friends, but I can speak about one of them—me.  God has used this to change me in a number of ways.

  1. I must be honest about what’s happening in my own heart.  Tommy clearly had a dark season in his life up to the end.  Yet, his wife did not know the extent of this.  Neither did his kids.  Nor his church.  Nor did his friends.  And I wonder if Tommy really understood this!  We all must understand our hearts before God and others.  This stands as a non-negotiable.
  2. I must have someone to share what’s happening in my heart.  I remember saying during the funeral sermon, “I wish I could have had another chance to talk to Tommy—to see what was happening.”  You see, Tommy and I carpooled to seminary for over a year during our MDiv work.  We shared things with each other that we haven’t shared with anyone else other than our spouses.  I wish I could have had one more car ride with him.  Who knows?  But now, I know I must have a transparent life with someone with whom I can be accountable—my spouse or even another friend as well. 
  3. I am more diligent in keeping up with my friends now.  Phone calls.  E-mails.  Facebook.  Smoke signal.  Carrier pigeon.  I see my pastor friends online, I pop in and say hello and ask them how I’m doing.  Who knows?  Some may say, “Oh, him again?”  Yup!  Me again.  I talked online to Tommy once per week.  We didn’t talk about much, but it was that connection.  Could I have done more?  Could I have said more?  Sure, he was in Iowa and I in Kentucky—but still… .  Even so, I need to do what I can to make sure all of us minister and live faithfully, and finish well in Christ.
  4. I’m preaching with more passion.  At least, that’s what folks tell me.  I didn’t connect until just now that maybe Tommy’s death is why.  What is happening in the hearts of the pastors with whom I serve?  What is happening with the staff with whom I’m supervise?  What’s happening with the congregation for whom I will have to give an account (Hebrews 13:17)?  What’s happening in our community in which God has placed our church?  So, I’m preaching with much more urgency.  If God can use this clay pot (2 Corinthians 4:7) for His purposes, then I pray He will put in me desire to compel others to chase after Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). 

I’ve been sitting on this for a number of weeks.  It’s so hard to think about, much less write about.  Plus, I do not want to unearth feelings among the family that may be starting to heal.  But if there are any family members reading (Kay, Melissa, Jesi, Derek, Steve, Jeff, Betty, wives, husbands, and children), please know that God is and will use all things for good, even though what happened was not good. 

You know that Tommy was my brother!  We kept talking about seeing each other again sometime.  And I will see him again!  That last season did not represent the totality of Tommy’s passion for relying on His grace.  You all are in my prayers.  Thank you for letting me be part of your lives.  May God use us to be a part of the lives of those whom we care about. 

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Embracing Change With the Unchanging Gospel

“Times have changed, the culture has changed, rules have changed, and expectations of leaders have changed. Metathesiophobia is the impossible-to-pronounce word for ‘fear of change.’ Fearing, resisting, or balking at the need to change, grow, and adapt can be your undoing as a leader. It can start a downward spiral for your organization or group. The only thing that seems to remain the same is change. Change is more prolific, rapid, and complex than ever before. The only place you can’t be sure of change is from a vending machine. Everything else is up for grabs.” (Dave Kraft, Leaders Who Last).

I like this quote by Dave Kraft a lot!  I’m only 41, and oftentimes I find myself relying on how things were executed from when I first entered into the ministry and had some semblance of ‘results.’  But times have changed even when I entered into the ministry in 1992.  But in fact, I’ve been chewing on this notion for a number of years (having blogged about this back in 2010). 

Being in a multigenerational church is a beautiful thing for me, but must be approached with a prayerful vision.  Some of the younger generation is ready to embrace change yesterday.  A change is seen, and must be implemented now if not sooner!  While some who may be in the more seasoned chapter of their lives may not embrace change too readily. 

Praise God for both! 

The enthusiasm of the younger generation and the wisdom of moving cautiously can sharpen each generation for the betterment of the entire church body.  But when there is a clear understanding that change needs to take place, we must be willing to “change, grow, and adapt.” 

What must never change is the unchanging Word of God in the life and breath of the church.  Psalm 119:89 says:

Forever, O Lord, your word
is firmly fixed in the heavens.

We also read from 1 Peter 1:23-25:

22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for

“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

The preached Word is what saves and sanctifies—regardless of the culture or time or situation.  While we may apply the Word in these various areas, the Word must not be compromised!

So we must keep in mind: the culture is not infallible or inspired, it’s fallen.  Yet, we risk grasping that more dearly to our hearts than the unchanging Word of God from God!  Methodologies change, the Word does not!  Let’s make sure we get that principle firmly fixed in our minds.

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Seven Signs of an Introverted Church

In preparation for my sermon this coming Sunday, I pulled out C. John Miller’s Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (Zondervan, 1986).

Where do we find the repository of what Christ has commanded us? In the Scriptures. He tells us to go and make disciples. He told his disciples to make disciples. He told them to, under the power of the Spirit, reproduce Christians.

Maybe this is the reason why North American churches are dying—we are reproducing normal American citizens who strive for the normal American life who wish for normal jobs, normal marriages, normal kids, a normal retirement, etc, rather than Kingdom disciples.

In truth, every church reproduces what it holds to and cherishes most dearly. In order for churches to remain normal in the midst of the dying churches that perish all around them, they being looking inwardly in order to maintain. C. John Miller writes about how introverted churches operate:

Tunnel vision: when churches limit potential ministries of the church to those that can be accomplished by the visible, human resources at hand. Any vision that has God moving and working is not seen or ignored.

Shared sense of group superiority: We find one thing we do well or have done well and elevate it, then look at others who do not have this quality. It is done for fear of extinction. Churches who do this refer greatly to their storied history, their founders, former pastors, past times of glory.

Extreme sensitivity to negative human opinion: At the first sign of opposition, we shrivel up. And the more influence the opposition has, the stronger our sensitivity. This critical person with the loud voice and his influence begins to take on the role of Christ, wielding power to make or break programs.

Niceness: for fear of controversy, there is a desire to be nice and safe. No surprises, no problems, just comfort, safety, and security.

Confused leadership roles: Introverted churches do not want church officers or ministers to be pacesetters. It’s a fear of change, a fear of enthusiasm, a fear of breaking the routine. Keep the status quo. In unspoken words, they tell the pastor and ministers, “We will support you and love you, as long as you stay in bounds of our tradition.”

Misplaced vision: We don’t concern ourselves about growth but survival.

What does all this have to do with the Bible? The Bible shows God’s prophets, His apostles, and His Messiah going completely counter to this! The more we study and preach and apply the Scriptures, the less introverted we are personally and churchwide.

I fear we are more concerned about change that we are about Christ’s leadership. I fear too many of us get more fired up when our personal preferences aren’t met rather than we do over personal sin.

Another piece of the vision God has placed in me is that our members would love and study the Word of God and not simply love the Bible in theory but also in practice. Therefore, I must train my leaders by giving them tools to study the Word through observation, interpretation, and application. I must also model it through faithful expositional preaching which goes through the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:28) rather than simply giving life lesson principles to meet temporal needs. We must also offer special leadership training for our staff, deacons, Sunday School leaders, and other key areas of ministry at our church and have Boone’s Creek be a place for young ministers to intern so they may exercise their gifts.

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