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Leading Change: I Lived to Tell about It!

Over the last several weeks, we have:

This week I’m continuing the storytelling I began last week about my experience in leading change. I shared about two of my early seasons of leading through change, and now move into my hardest season.

The Most Difficult Season!

After launching a second campus, we had almost 20 years of surprising fruit from both campuses. The Hispanic ministry grew, we planted another church, God changed lives, and people were baptized! 

But… our urban neighborhood was now pocked with gang violence. The worst of the violence was within a mile around our church. Over 300 people still worshiped in the English services. The school was straining. The second campus continued to grow over those decades. But we were on an unsustainable path. The declines at the historic campus outpaced the ability of the second campus to support it. 

The most difficult season? Relocation of the English-speaking campus to the second campus on the edge of the city and releasing our Hispanic ministry to become an autonomous congregation central to an immigrant population like our German-speaking church had done so many years earlier. 

I thought people were not committed to the mission when they talked about all of the spiritual milestones that had occurred in the historic sanctuary. I missed seeing peoples’ sense of loss! I could have been more caring had I understood the grief.

I missed seeing people’s fears of the uncertain! This was the only place they’d known for generations of family as their place of worship. They feared being displaced to an unfamiliar place. I could have done better.

There’s a saying that you haven’t really led change until you’ve survived sabotage. 

Well, I survived it! It hurt deeply to see people that I had loved and ministered to for years, who had loved me, suddenly angry and looking to unseat me or the transition. It hurt to see them rallying as many others as might agree with them. 

For a pastor who too much was guided by pleasing people, this stung way too deeply. 

The Finale 

A few years after our 25-year tenure had come and gone, we went back on Christmas Eve to where we had started! The autonomous Hispanic church had flourished in our Anglo absence. We’d been too paternalistic, unbeknownst to us. They’d deferred too much to not incur a disapproving look from their elders.

And they flourished in autonomy! They demonstrated innovation and confidence in God to provide and grant favor in ways that everyone else needed to listen and learn from.

Christmas Eve! The sanctuary was full with well over 400 people! It was the fruit of embracing the neighborhood in deep and meaningful ways and giving Gospel witness. Gail and I were two of only a few who only speak English in the crowd. But with translation devices in our ears, we heard the worship of Jesus, the Baby, the One who was sent who had now sent our brothers and sisters. We heard testimonies of changed lives. We cried! Tears of joy streaming down our face. And, that evening we drove home reminding ourselves that it had been worth it! 

So, for you?

You can see a few of the “done wells” and the “should have done betters” of corporate change. The story runs so much deeper. But… the people in your church? To organize and build a vision focused on God’s mission of getting His lost people back? They need someone to lead! And lead as best they can with what they know and what they have.

Today is not a day for the faint of heart leaders! Thanks for your compassion and courage!

Don’t forget the upcoming workshop, Leading Change (and Living to Tell about it)! It will be offered on three dates: April 15, May 16, and June 6. For $49.95, you and up to three associates can join with other like-minded leaders asking some of the same questions. Register today!

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