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The #1 Big Challenge to Change in Your Congregation

Most churches long to have wider influence—not a shrinking influence—in their communities.

But getting there is difficult! It’s even more difficult now than it was 20 years ago when PLI started training leaders to navigate the waters of change for the sake of the Mission of God.

  • Shuffle the Sunday schedule.
  • Drop a program.
  • Add a class.
  • Engage your changing neighborhood.
  • Allocate dollars differently.
  • Staffing.

The #1 Big Challenge is that most members of most churches filter all matters through a simple question: “Will I like it? Will it make me comfortable? Will it be convenient for me?”

How did we get here in our American churches? Deny yourself and take up your cross can seem farthest from our minds in our congregations. Can you imagine the disciples saying to Jesus: “It’s not convenient to go from the transfiguration to Jerusalem to suffer.” “We’d rather not get involved with feeding the 5000.”

….OK, I guess I can imagine…

Otherwise wonderful people who love the Lord and love their church and mostly/usually love their pastors and leaders have no fundamental north star that God intends to use His Church as His instrument in delivering the life-saving Gospel that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.

What if decisions about change were made for the sake of the mission…not just our own comfort or convenience.

Last week I asked if your church has drifted from its stated mission. Operationally, is the mission of your church to provide ministry that’s liked and comfortable for the faithful?

It’s doubly difficult today! People outside the church don’t think there’s any “good news” for them inside the church. And the people inside the church don’t want to adapt or change because it’s not convenient or comfortable.

I had an early surprise in my leadership journey a year or two out of seminary.

After 20 years of steady to rapid decline our congregation changed postures and grew significantly. We were adjusting the worship schedule. Necessary for the mission God had called us to be about. It seemed obvious. Simple.

Bob and SueEllen thought otherwise. (Naive for me right?) With petitions in hand, they solicited the 8:00 crowd to sign on as they walked from the parking lot: “Keep the 8:00 worship time!”

I talked to Bob and SueEllen (Not easy for this young, new, conflict avoider-pastor to go to the source.) “Why?”

“We meet our friends from St. Marys for breakfast after church every Sunday. Change the schedule and we’re 15 minutes late!”

It was one of the first of hundreds of navigations driven by: “Will this be convenient for me? Will this make me comfortable?”

Over time, people changed. More and more, stewarding the Mission of God entrusted to us impacted our decision making.

Here’s a simple fact to keep in mind:

Change by ADDITION is easiest! Those changes offer few challenges to the congregation’s comfort and convenience.

Change by SUBSTITUTION or SUBTRACTION? Much more difficult.

So, simple question. Are you on point with your stated mission or have you drifted off point?

  • 1000 Young Leaders offers a path to reaching the largest adult generation in the U.S. that’s mostly missing in all of our churches. It’s change by addition.
  • Leadership Essentials (coming up in Houston and Nashville has an Immersion 3 focus on how to become a better leader of change.
  • Senior Leader beginning April 2020 begins with a deep dive into adaptive change and the imposing challenges most of our churches are facing.

Thanks for following Jesus. Thanks for leading!

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One Response

  1. Roy Agnew says:

    This is exactly the problem with most churches today. Ever since the church “growth” movement of the ’90s, churches seem to have gotten the message that we need to make things easy to attract members.
    I was reading something from Bonhoeffer last night, commenting on Mark 8:31ff. Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes his statements about His need to suffer the cross. Bonhoeffer pointed out that at that moment, Satan has entered the church. Suffering is an unavoidable part of our life with Christ. It is a fundamental part of being a disciple. Most churches today want to be comfortable and shielded from difficulties. This is completely inconsistent with Jesus’ call to follow Him. What we have to communicate to churches is that the call to pick up our cross, while involving suffering, also means great joy.

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