Living things change.
Think about it in terms of a newborn baby. There are cycles to life. From newborn to infant to baby to toddler to early adolescence, there are some major changes that take place.
My daughter is 5 now. She does not look exactly the same way she looked 5 years ago. She is able to do things now that she couldn’t do back then, like walk and carry on a conversation (that makes sense—most of the time).
As her father, if I had noticed that 3 years went by and she was still the same size, the same weight and hadn’t grown in her abilities, I would be very, very concerned. Something would have to be wrong and because I love her, I would do everything in my power to discover what that was so that I could help to fix the problem.
What’s crazy though, is that there are many days where I wish my 5 year old would stop growing up. I know that this feeling will only get stronger the older she gets and the further she pulls away from her dependance on her mother and I.
I want her to grow up and be happy and healthy, but at the same time I hate that she has to grow up at all. Why is that?
WE HATE CHANGE
Most people long for and strive after stability. The older we get, the worse this longing gets. I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t want a stable job with a steady income? Who would go out of their way to live from a suitcase and never stay in one place for more than 2 weeks at a time?
There are certainly some people who prefer life this way. However, for the vast majority of us, change is the enemy and so we fight against it. The truth of the matter is, though, that it doesn’t matter how hard you try to keep everything status quo, life is going to change. You can fight some of it, but there are so many factors that are simply out of your control.
This reality translates into the life of any organization and it holds some unique and specific ramifications for any church family.
As the leader of a church I’m hard wired to be discontent with the status quo. I can’t help it, it’s part of my DNA. I am always looking for how something can be done better, for ways that people can be challenged to grow and for ways in which the church can extend it’s influence for the Kingdom of God in it’s context.
There are problems and challenges that come with trying to lead through any change. From experience, I have come to believe that the problems and challenges can be made significantly easier if a leader and/or a church family, can identify and address them all throughout the process.
So, allow me to propose to you 5 Reasons We Hate Change In The Church in the hopes of preparing us for the inevitability of life (I’ll give two of them to you in this post and the other three in the post following).
1. CHURCH IS OUR ONE CONSTANT
Yes, change is inevitable in life. Yes, I’m willing to acknowledge that I have very little control over some of those areas. Church, however, should be one place that I can go and experience some stability though, right?
Church is a haven, a safe place, an escape from the ever changing world around me. Plus, I have a voice at church. I have some control over the things that happen, or don’t happen. After all, church is like a family. It’s my family. And just like in my own family, I have control over a significant amount of the changes that come our way.
Well . . . yes, and to a greater degree, NO!
First of all, God’s in control. No one, within the church, is going to have a problem accepting that at a conceptual level. Do you realize, thought, that at an operational level this truth pretty much guarantees change.
Change is the message of the Gospel.
There is the initial change from death to life. There is the relational changes that immediately take place between you and God, not to mention that fact that we’ve been added into a family. Then there are the ongoing, progressive changes that continue in our sanctification. There are missional changes concerning our location. There are emotional changes, perspective changes, monetary changes. Really . . . everything changes in an ongoing way.
There are really only ever two consistence throughout Scripture and they are: God and Truth.
While it isn’t a sin issue, to desire stability in the established church (and pastors/leaders would be good to remember this), it can easily become idolatry or a stumbling block to the work of the Kingdom of God. We should strive for stability in many, many things in the church because a stable diet of good things produces growth. However, we must be careful to keep ourselves from growing comfortable with the way things are because we don’t have a God that functions inside the status quo.
2. WE RESPECT BUT DON’T NECESSARILY TRUST OUR LEADERS
Ok… this one is on me (and other pastor/elders).
When it comes to going through change, the process can be scary, painful and destructive or it can be scary, exciting and transformative. The linch pin, frequently, is the person(s) who are leading.
I have discovered, in my leadership, that people generally tend to like me as a person, they might even like me as a pastor, and all of this is relatively easy to accomplish and maintain (if I can keep my foot out of my mouth).
Trust, however, is a different issue. Trust is earned, it’s not just given, and trust can be very easily lost. People don’t trust those that they don’t know. This is wise. That’s why we teach our children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” You don’t know the motives of the random Joe or Jane out there.
There will always be people, within every group/organization/church, who won’t like something that the leader is doing. After all, if each of us had the same preferences . . . we’d be in heaven and this conversation would be moot. While we stumble around in this broken world, however, it’s important for leaders to understand that people can’t, won’t and shouldn’t follow leaders they can’t trust.
Transparency is key. Vulnerability is a must. Humility is non-negotiable. Patience is significantly needed. A leader must do his best to be deserving of the trust of his people before, during and after changes occur.
Unfortunately, some people may never trust you (it’s probably your beady-eyes), but if you have done the work to deserve people’s trust, the majority will.