Everybody is involved in change. If you don’t believe take a few minutes and look into the mirror. Compare photos of today with 5, 10, and 15 years ago. You see the evidence. Change is occurring in your physical being. Change is the one constant we have to deal with in every category of life; internal as well as external.
Benjamin Franklin may not have been a psychologist by profession, but this statement by him is true: “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
Look around you and notice all the changes that you are involved in related to communication. Notice the transportation changes. Evidence of change is everywhere; some changes are positive and some changes are negative. Both are constantly occurring.
Change, spiritually speaking, is essential to salvation. Jesus said, “repent or perish.” (Luke 13:3, 5) The Greek word translated repent means to “have another mind; to change over.” Thus, out of the changed mind comes the changed life. Behavior is tied to our thoughts (cf. Proverbs 23:7; Mark 7:21-25; Acts 26:10, 11).
Few challenges confront leaders more persistently than change. Yet, how ironic that many church leaders change very little in their habits and practices during their lifetime; and especially in leadership practices.
While it is true that a leader can’t change or control the world around him, he can change himself and choose new patterns of behaviors as well as attitudes.
The business leader, Peter Drucker said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” We’ve all heard and used this definition of insanity: “The sign of insanity is doing the same old things over and over and expecting different results each time.” The tendency of church leaders is to say, “We have always done it this way.”
A major danger of refusing to change is the things we hold on to control us. In 50-plus years of full-time ministry, I have noted numerous signs in the lives of preachers, elders, deacons, and teachers that they have not changed in areas where expediency guides instead of a “thus says the Lord.” Here is a quick bullet list of some of these areas leaders refuse to let go:
- Traditions guide how things are done, both in structure, time, evaluating, and measures of success (cf. Mark 7:7, 9).
- Habits in approach to teaching, preaching, behavior, and how they deal with any issue that arises.
- Sadly, some leaders live behind a wall of fear, worrying about what others will think or what if we fail attitudes.
- Stuck in the same old routines which are expressed in prayers, speech patterns, response to questions, etc.
- As a closed mindset relative to any new observations about a Scripture or new insight related to a context. An unwillingness to restudy any subject.
- A tendency to maintain personal relationships with a group or click in the congregation while neglecting others.
- A failure to improve the educational level. Rarely reads any new books; ignorant of the latest challenge in society; blind to impact on the congregation.
- Sadly, some leaders are lazy. They have excuses for not doing their job. They have found the level of “get-by-ism” and find shelter in it. The brethren tend to accept the status quo.
- There is a tendency of some leaders to let stubbornness keep them from asking for help or admitting they don’t know how to do a certain task. Pride is an enemy of change.
- It is amazing how resentment and jealousy hold some leaders back from changing. They will not admit that someone has influenced them or changed their mind. This is another expression of pride.
I must be quick to admit that reluctance and resistance to change are not the exclusive territories of leaders. It is also part of the mindset of most members. Just let leadership suggest a change in a long-held practice and you’ll see conflict arise to an amazing level; even to the splitting of the church.
The leaders of today must admit that the church is facing challenges and problems she has never faced before, at least not on this magnitude. Congregations are declining in number, programs are being cut, and some congregations are a closing song away from closing the doors forever. It is time for leaders to wake up and make the changes in methodologies, not Scriptures, that will glorify God and expand the borders of the Kingdom (cf. Ephesians 3:21).
Remember: TRUTH HAS NOTHING TO FEAR!