Change Happens! We Cannot Escape It!

Change often frightens people. People do not relax well in the midst of change. It makes them anxious. As a church planter you will discover that nothing is more challenging than leading through times of change. Whether by aspiration or by avoidance, everyone is dealing with change. God knows that’s how change effects us, so throughout Scripture, He put stories where His people struggled with change in their lives.

As I began thinking about change I reflected on why people fear change, and my mind was drawn back into the Old Testament to the day that the Israelites were at the border of the Promised Land for the very first time! Do you remember what happened? They were afraid of the change. Was it the size of the giants or perhaps the strength of the walled cities? They were afraid of change because they had their eyes on the giants, and not on God. Their fear came from the fact that in their shallow minds, they thought their God was not big enough to face the challenges they faced.

We are living in an age of change and swift turbulence that comes with changing is all around us. As a church planter if you learn to handle change well you will be more successful. If you avoid learning how to make subtle changes as well as monumental ones it will cause you much pain and it could lead you failure. Weather any of us understand it or not we are now living in a generation that seeks change. Perhaps the best recommendation then for you and for me is to learn how to challenge this generation with change. Real change! This generation wants to grow and experience change. They do not want to stagnate; they want to try new things, experience new opportunities and have possession of the vision for the future. These young adults want to play a part in a vibrant team that is going somewhere. This group of individuals that is coming into church leadership during this generation loves change and is spiritual, emotionally and physically charged as a result of change! Change according to John Kotter, is “never about strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing behavior of people, mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.”  [1]

I found this neat quote and while I do not know who said it initially it is worth reading, thinking and even learning from:

Change, is what you dig for when there’s nothing left; it’s what buys you a treat when your pocket is empty.

The church planter today regardless of the church he plants must become the agent of change if lasting growth is to occur and/or continue even when your pockets feel empty.Someone has said, “We must be more like thermostats than thermometers.” Both instruments are capable of measuring heat. However, they are poles apart. A thermometer is inactive. It records the temperature of its surroundings but can do nothing to change that situation. A thermostat is a lively instrument. It determines what the atmosphere will be. It effects change in order to create a climate.

Early in the 1900’s Danish born industrialist William S. Knudsen immigrated to the United States and worked various jobs which eventually landed him working for a Buffalo bicycle factory. By 1911 Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company, purchased the factory and Knudsen became the production manger where he quickly became known as a leader in his field. Knudsen quickly became convinced that the now four year oldModel T, had to be updated. But, Henry Ford however loved his creation so much it was well known that he opposed changing anything about the car.  [2]

According to Robert Lacy, Knudsen thought to convince Ford by building an updated and impressive model to show what could be done with a few changes in color and design.Ford had just returned from a European vacation, and he went to a Highland Park, Michigan garage and saw the new design created by Knudsen.

They say that the car was it was a four door job, and the top was down, painted gleaming red and built on a new, low slung version of the Model T. One eyewitness tells how "Ford had his hands in his pockets, and he walked around that car 3 or 4 times. He wrecked the car as much as he could."

Knudsen left for General Motors where he served as its president from 1937 through 1940. Henry Ford nursed along the Model T, but design changes in competitor’s models made it more old-fashioned than he would admit. Competitive necessity finally backed him into making the Model A, but his heart was never in it.  [3]

Now think about this bit of history for just a moment! Henry Ford was one of the most creative men of his age. And yet as one of the great minds of his day even he resisted the obvious need for change.Sometimes wherther we want to admit it or not as a church planter or even a missions pastor we are not always ready to deal with the various aspects of change. We often operate in a now what type of mode. Observe the ten styles of change that a church planter moving from launch to growth must utilize at various times in ministry:

The Catalyst: is one who is able to start things out of nothing. Often in the church planting arena this is referred to as being able to start something from dirt! That means that as a good church planter you will have the ability to start spomething out of nothing. You have that deep drive to get things moving and make it happen at the initial phase of a church’s launch. Will you stay thereasd a church planter? Some do and some don’t! If you have that character quality to a large degree you might find that you are much better at getting something moving and off the ground but you do not have the gift set to keep a plant ever moving forward and growing numerivally. Those type of planters are truly the catalytic church planters like we see in the new testament who launched them and leave them for someone else to continue to nurture and expand the new church.

The Originator: the other catalitic type of church planter is really more of the originator. While this quality is similar to the pure catalyst in they they are also launching a new church plant, this one has more of the gift sets that enable him to actually grow the church past a three or four cell configuration. With this type of individual they may demonstrate more of the founding pastor quality which enables the planter to grow through the various levels and operate with various natural and learned qualities to continue to lead and grow the new work. For this type of church planter he will learn new avenues in his leadership and be more able to guide a church into a strong and lasting future. For this guy the remaining list of quality traits as a church planter he will find himself moving in and out of at various times in his ministry. These remaining types might sometimes be present in the true catalyst but to a lesser degree than the originator who will work to move the new church forward at each and every stage it faces.

The Manager:As the leader of a new church plant, you often will opperate from this quality trait! The manager is the one who has the gift for organizing the often ever growingarray of stand alone ideas and projects.He is the one who can bring them into a working structure for the advancement of that specific churches ministry. Every church planter needs to have some level of organizational skills. Far too many ministers today want to default at this point and it often hurts the work of the new church if they are poor managers. The reason for this is that most lay ministry people will not trust you with big things until they see that they can trust you with the simple and tiny things. I am not saying you need to do all of the organizational stuff but you need to be aware of what is going on and able to organize the mix towards a functioning structure. As the new church begins to grow you will need to provide a healthy degree of this skill set at the transisitioning stage from moving from a three to four cell structure with perhaps 30-50 individuals to new levels of growth. Church planters who can manage the change from small initial launch to a new work that is advancing numerically understand that it takes a focus on moving and managing the mix of an ever expanding ministry. While your church is still rather small you will find that it is up to you to do most of this managing work. As your new church moves past the 125 participants level you will begin to be able to give this type of work away to those who are more gifted in this area. One word of advice for the new church that is growing and its leader. Never fully relinquish this area until you are much much larger. Planters can stall a church plant or even an exsisting church when they appear to be unaware of ewhat is going on and the laity begin to question his ability to lead even though there have been early advances. The planter early acts as the one who pilots the ship. The one who steers the helm. As growth continues he must become willing to give pieces of this away. This a big part of his learning to change.

The Shaper: Often this type of change is thrust upon the growing church leader. The planter becomes the one who thinks about the vision and strategy involved to keep the church growing and expanding. They have the ability to chart out the course prayerfully and strategically. As the need for change arises in this venue the planter begins to shape and design what the new church will look like past the initial first 1000 days of its early life. This is the change qualitywhere the planter faces change with his creativity and is able to come up with new ideas that invigorate the new work and keep it moving in a positive direction. As the leader of a new plant you will face the need to shape and guide the new opportunities for the work. When you focus on the things that will form the plant in the way you sense God leading, the shaper in you will not get lost in developing and designing ministries that would move your church plant off its intended focus.

The Motivator: is the one who faces change as the eternal encourager in the mix. It was John Maxwell that taught me, now some twenty plus years ago, the importance of keeping the momentumn in a church plant! Momentum is the greatest of all change agents. I have noticed that over 90 percent of the thriving changes we can make as a church planterare often the result of creating momentum before asking people to make changes.To maximize the valueof momentum, leaders must develop an appreciation for it early; know the key ingredients of it immediately;and pour resources into it always!It is extremely important as you continue to sense Gods leading that you keep the new church from stalling out. Exsisting churches face this also, however because they usually have a already predictable degree of stability it is not as critical. For the new church plant though it is very important to keep the forward progress moving so the church does not stall at a numericval level that is not sustainable in a lasting church plant. Most catalitic church planters struggle at this point in time for the church plant because their skill set of launching a new work is now greatly challenged and they are unprepared to make the momentumn shifts necessary to keep the churches momentumn towards growth ongoing. That is why for those with the purely catalitic skill set, it is important to pass the new church off to a leader that is wired to keep it advancing before it stalls.

To see the relationship between environment and growth, look at nature. An observation was made by a man who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. According to him, one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. The reason for this is that sharks adapt to their environment. If you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium in which it lives. Sharks can be six inches long and fully mature. But turn them loose in the ocean and they grow to their normal size.

The same is true of potential leaders. Some are put into an organization when they are still small, and the confining environment ensures that they stay small and underdeveloped. Only leaders can control the environment of their organization. They can be the change agents who create a climate conducive to growth.  [4]

As a church planter the ability to motivate others to jump aboard or remain in the effort is part of the new skill sets the planting pastor must develop. His influence in this area will greatly aid the future health and vitality of the now expanding church plant. Often this one intangible trait helps the planter propel, with Lords guidance certainly, the plant forward for a marvelous future. Instead of becoming confined to something small it grows like a shark does when given space and freedom to discover the new things God has in store.

The Developer:A planter leading a healthy new church will often find himself operating as the developer both for himself as well as a particular set of individuals who will help lead and grow the church. I have discovered that personal growth is the first avenue that will surface in this area and we should embrace this joyfully that God has chosen to grow us on the inside first before we grow others around us. The second area is the realistic work of the ministry of growing others. Church planters face this early and often as a leader of a church. It is good to be able to change with the times and to continually develop yourself as well as developing others who will help develop the new churches ministry. Ministry leaders in some churches don’t recognize the importance of creating a climate conducive to building potential leaders. They just don’t understand how it works. While other traits of change in this list come and go the developer knows or has learned how to follow up what has been done after the momentum is moving things forward. Another way of saying this realistically, it there will be times that you as the planter will need to reinvent the church to keep it in tune with the changing times. Many new churches fail to reinvent their ministry to stay a vital piece of the ever changing community around them. Your new church, that once you were happy just having a strong core group, has now flourished to the place where you are given the constant privilege to continually extend your reach into your community.

The Consolidator: While we all will have times as a church planter where we need to practice the art of consolidation, if one is not careful consolidation could become a means to circle the wagons and eventual become the cause for your plant to stop growing and enlarging. While sometimes a good consolidator knows how to keep things going, strength can also become weakness in this instance when it becomes a form of just maintaining the status quo. Planters who are for the very first time facing the need for new facilities and new buildings often struggle with this trait. While there is a real need to keep your plant on the strategic plan and eventual goals of the strategic vision, sometimes you will face the need for consolidation. In one of my churches, when Shell Oil pulled out and downsized in the area, we faced the need for circling of the wagons a little. We were in a building program building a new education building and things became a little tight with the loss of about a quarter of our church family do to job transfers outside of our immediate area. The real impact was greater than just twenty five percent moving to another area because these dear families were a large part of the financial backing of this growing ministry. We worked as a team of lay leaders and lead planter/pastor to seek the Lords wishes on the plan and the result was that we did build the building, but instead of contracting it out like we had planned, we met every Saturday for about 18 months (except holidays) and worked at the church. Our men never before experienced such camaraderie and the ladies in our church would come over for lunch and serve us a great meal each week. The result was that the men were energized and the women were utilized in such a way that the entire fellowship felt like when we open the doors of this new building that everyone had had a part in it! I personally experienced a greater leadership position since I was there just like the laymen were each week taking my day off for the good of the church. Consolidation sometimes works in your favor if everyone knows why you are doing this. There is the other side of this trait as well. If you consolidate just so you can keep what you have the end will probably not turn out as well. Some have referred to this as the unite-tor or the connector and both of these terms fit for sure. Whatever you call it, you will discover that your people do become more united and there is a greater connection with you and your people!

The Decision-maker: is one who sees the vision clearly and is leading the new church forward in the god given direction it has been called and placed. This individual as a church planter has learned how to move the ministry forward and keep it growing. When a church planter fails at this point problems become nightmares and nightmares lead to a lack of growth momentum in the new work. You will be asked to lead as the church planter often. If you are unable to make the hard call or the timely decision you might become the cause of the church to stall. Planters must make decisions. Sometimes they are hard ones. Regardless of the decision there will be consequences. Some of these will be positive and some of these will be negative. It is part of growing as a church planter and understanding that making the hard calls are part and parcel of planting a new church or any church for that matter.

The Entrepreneur:I hear it all the time from church planters that they are really entrepreneurs. That sounds good and probably makes them feel the same way. If the planter is not careful though they can become stuck in this trait solely and operate in a manner that only functions as the maverick that leads the new church. Church Planter’s usually have within them that maverick trait. If they are not careful that trait moves over to becoming a trait of the rebel and then it is all about what they desire instead of what the church needs. One vital lesson of church planting leadership is that you must become the one who constantly expands the circle of ministry for the new and growing church. It is extremely vital that you learn as a planter how to become more inclusive in giving away your leadership. Far too often we can get stuck as a church planter right here because this person faces change with a total reliance on himself and lacks the attention to become more inclusive by drawing others to the cause. It is a cool thing if you are wired in this way. Just remember that if you are not careful that a ministry plant that is developed in this way only, can often tank if the maverick entrepreneur decides to leave and go plant somewhere else.

A lesson learned in this area of change would and could be that many churches bulk at even the slightest change in their routine. Even when they’re fairly sure the changes would be something pleasing to God they still in essence resist. Yes it is easier as a new plant because it is newer than existing churches when they get stuck. But new church plants are almost as resistant to change as older more established ones after they have been around for about three years or more.

People are afraid of change. Times are changing so change with the times. Our God however, is a God of change. We can learn at least two things from scripture about change: initially, we can learn that Christians should not be afraid of change. In Revelation 21:5 He declares “Behold, I make all things new” God does all kinds of “new things” in our lives every day. When we first become Christians, we die to our past, are buried in the water’s of Christian baptism and rise up a “changed” person, a new changed creature in Christ. Our God is God of change, and God can do great things when His people and His churches allow Him the freedom to change their lives. Someone once observed that the only persons who like change are wet babies and even they aren’t too excited about it. Churches are notorious for that kind of attitude as well. 

True spiritual maturity is approached when people turn their attention to those outside the church and seek ways to spread the good news rather than exercise their entitlements as members. Unfortunately, too many planting pastors assume their church has “spiritual leaders” and skip right over this starting point. It has become apparent to me that most church leaders do not understand that the decline of their church is due to the lack of spiritual depth on the part of their leadership.


How to Get Off Stuck if you are Facing Change!

Incredible changes have taken place in the past hundred years. We are experiencing more change than ever in history. The rate of change is so great that we barely catch our breath before another blast of change slams into us. The starting point for unfreezing a stuck church is the development of a solid community of faith that includes spiritual leaders, the absence of major conflict, trust, and a desire to connect with the un-churched world. Everything we are acquainted with is changing. If you are sensing you might be facing a little stuckness in your church plant perhaps some of these following ideas might help you: 

1.Realize you are trapped in a routine. Become aware of what you have tried in the past that has not worked. Become willing to let go of what hasnot worked while honoring previous attempts. My testimony is often as a planter I would take three steps forward and two steps back at times. But I was still gaining one forward step even in those times where we were breaking with routine. 

2. Become more open to other points of view. Focus on the solution not the problem. Iron sharpens iron so allow others to assist you with big ideas that might help the new church to continue to advance. Remember that even your lay leaders have a vital stake in the plant’s continual growth. Often they are closer to a possible solution due to less of the responsibility for leadership being on their platter. While you are up to your ears leading they often can step back and think about those things that might bring further growth to the young church plant.

3. Examine your daily thinking and how it has or has not served you. Realize there is a choice of which path or action to take. Sometimes planters just need to readjust their strategy a little as they move forward from the various phases of growth in the new church. I personally often reflect why the Lord would not allow me to do the same thing in one plant that I had just done in another. God is about the new and often the old has passed by and He desires to create something so new in you and your church that you need to let go of the old thinking that has not worked or is no longer working. 

4. Assess your next steps for change. Ask the question: am I doing these things out of preference, practice, pattern or panic? Many a planter has said to me, I do what I do!” and then wonders why it is getting harder to see growth and advancement. That is a preference! Others just keep on trying an idea and keep driving it hoping that practice will eventually make perfect. It often does not! Still I see all over the country planters who get locked into a predetermined pattern and just cannot see a way out to do something else. Finally, planter’s can get so fearful of the lack of growth or advancement that they just panic and try to settle into a comfortable maintenance mentality. Assessing your next steps will greatly help you and your new work. As you are doing so be sure to check your ideas out with others.

5. Understand that if you make a blunder, recognize it is all part of the journey. See what your part is and apologize where and when necessary. Good leaders are not free from mistakes so don’t try to be perfect. When you do make a blunder as the planter:acknowledge it,learn from it, and seek to discover the life lesson in it.Many times in my ministry I have done a dumb thing that was not well thought out (I could lead a conference on the dumb things church planter’s do and never use anybody else’s ideas)! What I have learned from it though is if you are transparent enough as a leader to admit your mistakes and you people sense it is a heartfelt confession, they will indeed forgive you and even respect you much more because many pastors and planter just cannot admit when they make a mistake. If you take risks as a church planter during times of needed change sometimes things will not work out the way you had envisioned they would and a strong leader acknowledges it and then moves on. Blunders are sometimes part of the journey so don’t beat yourself up over them but also don’t expel them as not important to the fellowship so make the apology and reconnect with your membership before it is too late. If you wait too long to do this by the time you realize you need to do this it will be too late and your apology will ring hollow and your leadership will become in question. 

6. Appraise your plans by whether they fit your beliefs and core values. Then act accordingly.What are core values?They often are unwritten statements that guide who we are and what we do.They inspire our words and actions.Gerald Colbert reminds us: “they are convictions about how a church operates not doctrinal statements about what it believes.They are the foundation for developing relationships, church systems, ministries, and strategies.They are the four to seven key statements that distinguish a church.” [5] Remember what core values do?They clarify expectations.They clarify roles and relationships.Core valuesoffer a compass for strategic planning.They help in sharpening your churches mission statement. Take a minute and consider are your beliefs and core values reflective of the beliefs and values of Jesus? Ask yourself how do these beliefs and values reflect God’s Word?

Change and transformation are difficult – if it weren’t you would already be doing it. That is why we need support and guidance along the way. Are you ready to change?Perhaps it's a congregation that has a full calendar and keeps its people busy, but isn't engaged at all with people in the community outside the church.

Where do you Start with the Necessary Changes?

John Kotter, an expert on change leadership at the Harvard Business School, has studied how the best organizations actually make significant change. He suggests that useful change tends to be associated with a multi-step process, which creates power and motivation sufficient to overcome the inertia, obstacles, and inevitable resistance. In his book Leading Change, Kotter outlines this eight-step process:

1. Establish a Sense of Urgency.
2. Create a Guiding Coalition
3. Develop a Vision and Strategy
4. Communicate the Change Vision
5. Empower Broad-Based Action
6. Generate Short-Term Wins
7. Consolidate Wins and Produce More Change
8. Anchor New Approaches into the Culture.  [6]

This process has substantial implications for guiding change in any church.In Kotter's opinion the first three steps are necessary to thaw out a hardened status quo. Steps four through seven introduce a number of new and helpful practices. The last step grounds the changes into the organization's way of life. It is worth noticing that in Kotter’s list of change many new church plantsoften begin with the Communicate the change vision step and then proceed forward. They fail to establish a sense of urgency. Many do not see the importance of creating a guiding coalition. Additionally, a lot of planters even though it is recommended over and over think they are too busy to develop a church planting vision and strategy design. The result is failure because steps one through three are left out.

SixObject LessonsforThrivingAmidstChange

While you are working at changing the new church plant towards the direction that will allow it to continue to grow, there are some object lessons you will want to consider to assist you in the midst of making change:

1. Never take too lightly the influencethat a vision will bring!

Compelling vision draws people to the power behind the picture (which is Jesus Himself). I will never forget the lesson I learned while I was a junior in college when I was writing a research paper about the life of Walt Disney. As Walt Disney directed whenever he built a new Walt Disney Theme Park, he would say to his architects and designers, “Build the Castle first. When you feel the magic you can go the distance!”Mr. Disney understood that if you could show the workers just how good it could be they would gladly align and work energetically to accomplish the task. Show the members within your church plant just how good it could be and then lead them there to accomplish it! Change for a new church plant never happens without a compelling vision that has the power and presence of Jesus behind it.

2. Work at mastering the knack of listening. 

We all need to listen in order to separate what doesn’t fit with what you already know. From time to time we are all guilty of listening, but not intently enough or effectively enough, to actually hear the message being sent to us. John Savage says, “If you don’t know how to listen, you will miss some of the important feedback, which can give you early clues about things that are about to go wrong in your church.”  [7]Healthy leaders have strong listening skills. That is how we learn. That is how we assess what needs to be done. Unfortunately, one reason we often don’t have alert ears is because we have open mouths.” Kellie Fowler from shares, “Be it lack of time or interest that causes the message not to be heard, or that you are just too busy to actually listen and comprehend, this communication mishap occurs far too often and can be disastrous in many settings.”[8]Keep a list of your discoveries as you work on your listening skills. Add to it every day. There are passive listeners and there are attentive listeners. You will discover active or reflective listeners. Additionally, you will meet competitive or combative listeners. There are other modes of listening as well I am sure but most of us have experienced and practiced these popular types of listening practically every day. Becoming an effective listener is not a intensely challenging process but you must work at it. Listening well is one of life’s greatest challenges.  [9]

3. Let go. Let go of being right about how wrong it is. 

As pastors and church planters we need to let go of how we have always done it, of the old view of our self, of our old limitations.An excellent way of getting a great idea is by actively throw out as many ideas as possible with others who are creative ad have an investment in your ministry. The more often you as a minister and church planter(or church for that matter) do something in the same way, the more difficult it is to think about doing it in any other way! I have heard it labeled as “Breaking out of this prison of familiarity.” When we break out of our initial thought patterns and ministry patterns it jolts us from our routine and it will lead all of us to new ideas. Many professionally trained ministers perform well the initial first decade of their ministry only to be overtaken by a more pragmatic street-smart minister group that knows how to recognize opportunities. While the professionally trained clergy is far better at seeing the problem, Those that are in the midst of change are better able to hear opportunity knocking and are willing to answer the door.

The best way to move forward is to let go of just how “wrong” it is and move forward by finding new ideas for productive ministry points. Look around your community in a new way is always a good idea. Finding new ideas is a lot like prospecting for gold. If you look in the same old places you will find tapped out veins! But if you venture off the beaten path, you will improve your chances of discovering new idea lodes. Remember you really can’t se the good ideas behind you by looking twice a hard at what’s in front of you. Find those new areas you can discover a good idea for ministry. Change is often revealed in the new ideas. I personally have learned that the best way to get a great idea is to get lots of good ideas. I have come to realize that I must not stop with the first good idea I find, but that I need to look for others as well.

Think about this: How do you keep fish from smelling?

First idea: Cook it as soon as you catch it.

Second idea: Keep a cat around and it will never be an issue. 

Third idea: Cut its nose off (I hope that made you laugh).


Here is the point; nothing is more dangerous that an idea when it is the only one you have. Look for more than one right answer. Keep in mind what Michelangelo said: “David was always there in the marble. I just took away everything that was not David.” Another way for those that are less novel with ideas is to be on the lookout for the interesting ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are currently working on. I remember reading somewhere that our early military designers borrowed from Picasso’ artwork in designing more efficient camouflage patterns for our tank’s.

4. Take the ground you’ve already traveled. 

Remember, celebrate and own your defining moments. Always lead from your highest point. Use your greatest accomplishments as a catalyst to the next challenge. That said, it is now time to let go of the celebration and get busy with forging a new future. Often you will discover that it takes significant time to make changes. At times you must retake the ground you have already traveled and that always slows things down. You must do it anyway and many young leaders are just not that experienced in knowing when and how to retake the ground you have already traveled (and thought that you won). A primary reason for this is that resistance is always ready and willing to raise its ugly head. One thing I have learned as a church planter, pastor, and missionary is that irrational resistance to change never fully dissipates. What those facing change for the first time misunderstand is that even if you are successful in the early days of transformation you often do not win over the self focused individual that sense this might be assaulting their own turf. John Kotter reminds us well that, “whenever you let up before the job (of change) is done, critical momentum can be lost and regression may follow.” [10] Momentum is the planter’s best friend in making change. Do everything you can to keep it from stalling.

5. Learn to distinguish between fact and elucidation in your ministry and your life. 

We live in a sea of interpretations, which we treat like facts.

6. Embrace flexibility. 

Remain light on your feet and ready to invent, improvise and adjust. Darwin said, “It’s not the strongest of the species who survives, or even the smartest; it’s the one who can adapt to change.”

Death Clues for Churches Facing Spiritual Death

Often you hear of a church that is facing difficulty and has plateaued so far that it is now in the death stages of it ministry and community impact. It is a sad reality that many churches and congregants just are not willing to make the changes necessary to see their once vibrant ministry renew and reconnect with the area it was planted. [11]Bill Easum, founder of Net Results in his new book A Second Resurrection, shares eight death clues for churches facing spiritual death:

1. Many have lost their sense of mission to those who have not heard about Jesus Christ and do not pant after the Great Commission;

2. Many exist primarily to provide fellowship for the "members of the club;"

3. Many expect their pastors to focus primarily on ministering to the members' personal spiritual needs;

4. Many design ministry to meet the needs of their members;

5. Many have no idea about the needs of the "stranger outside the gates;"

6. Many are focused more on the past than the future; 

7. They often experience major forms of conflict; 

8. And many watch the bottom line of the financial statement more than the number of confessions of faith.  [12]

My own experience has taught me in working with churches in need of renewal as a Association Director of Missionsand now as one who works in denomination workthe revitalization of a church happens in three stages. It begins often with a new pastor who has contagious energy and vitality. Now either that pastor experiences a personal renewal or the church actually gets a new minister. Additionally comes the revivification of the lay leaders of the church either by renovation or replacement. Lastly, the church itself is resuscitated and turned around through some deliberate and intentional change. Then, if resurgence happens, our behavior changes. Here are some key ideas to consider in the midst of changing your church plant:

1. The new church must turn outward in its focus to the community.

2. Jesus is more important than our comfort.

3. The Great Commission will become our mandate, and we will measure everything we do by how many new converts we make rather than whether we have a black bottom line.

4. Church Planters and Pastors will cease being chaplains of pastoral care and will become modern-day apostles of Jesus Christ.

5. And those who try to control the church with an iron fist or intimidate the church at every turn of the road will quickly be shown the door.

“The primary reason society is shunning the institutional church is because for the most part it is spiritually dead. Spiritually alive churches no matter what there form or where they are planted, always grow. That is the nature of the local church. That is the kind of church God honors. That is what the church was put on earth to do—spread the good news. When a church faithfully does that, it grows. Period. “  [13]

What are some of the Roadblocks to Change? 

As a planter you will often become the change agent for either a season within the local church or perhaps even longer. There are many things that can get in the way of change. John McGuire of the Center for Creative Leadership says there are four general attitudes that become common reasons that the laity shrink back from leading change. Here are McGuire’s four reasons that many laity shrinks away from any degree of change transisition:  [14]

  • "Just Let George Do It." This attitude allows everyone to pass the buck to someone else. Leadership gets deferred as people wait for some transformational, powerful person to show the way, make the tough decisions and protect everyone else. Senior vice presidents defer to executive vice presidents, who defer to the chief operations officer, who defers to the chief executive. "It's amazing to watch people give away their hard-earned power rather than stand up and lead," says McGuire.
  • "Yes, But." Another common attitude is "Yes! I will lead change — but I want to control how it turns out." Executives often feel reluctant to give other people real space to create change or to find new ways to process and respond to the change that is around them. They worry that if they let go of control, they're opening up a Pandora's Box.
  • "Either-Or." The challenge is too big and there's not enough time. Executives are too busy with operational changes and making the numbers — managing change — that there isn't time for the people side — leading change. They think they have to do just one or the other; they can't do both at once.
  • "Are We There Yet?" Impatience gets in the way of leading change. Executives want to know how long their organizational change will take and frequently ask how much further they have to go. But lasting, meaningful change takes time and serious intention.

Wrapping it Up

While We Talk of Change, We Must Remember That God Is Still In Charge And That God Never Changes! 

Leading change is not a solo sport.The road of change should not be the road less traveled.Our world is in the control of the boundless, all-powerful God of the universe.He is in control.He never loses track of what’s going on.He never gets confused.He never frets over decisions.He always makes the right decision.He always knows what He will do even before the circumstances arise.God has a grip on the reins of the world and His purposes will be carried out.

The Scriptures speak of our changeless God in this changing world when they state in Malachi 3:6: " For I am the Lord, I change not."

These words were spoken in a time of great change. It won't take 40 years for any change your church needs to make - we hope! But people's outlooks, attitudes, values, self-images, and motives don't change overnight.Change is a constant companion in our fast-paced lives.

Every day in America: 

- 108,000 of us move to a different home.

- 18,000 move to another state. 

- 700 are moving to Florida.


Every day in America:

- The United States Government issues fifty more pages of regulations. 

- Forty Americans turn one hundred.

- Five thousand eight hundred become sixty-five.


Every day in America:

- One hundred sixty-seven businesses go bankrupt. 

- While six hundred eighty- nine new ones start up.

- And one hundred Americans become millionaires.


Every day in America: 

- Americans purchase forty-five thousand new automobiles and trucks, and smash eighty- seven thousand of them.

- More than six thousand three hundred get divorced.

- While thirteen thousand get married.

Every day in America:

- We eat seventy five acres of pizza.

- We eat fifty three million hot dogs.

- We eat one hundred sixty seven million eggs;

- We eat three million gallons of ice cream;

- We eat three thousand tons of candy.


We must have a renewed vision.We must have a passionate and clear vision of what God has called us to do and of what we need to be. Too often we have taken our feet off the pedal and looked too long in the rear view mirror at past glories.Someone has said: " When we have more memories than dreams, life is over." When we have greater memories than dreams we will never make a difference in changing our world for God.We must know where we are going and what we are going to do!

"It's not so much that we're afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it's that place in between that we fear. It's like being between trapezes. It's Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There is nothing to hold onto." - Marilyn Ferguson, American Futurist

Change is situational - a new building, new boss, new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the change. Change is more external and transition is more internal.

America is not fearful of the new, we are pioneers by nature. It's the internal trauma of being in transition and dealing with the unknown. We're not sure what to do. We're not sure what we can do. That's the power of effective leadership.

Remember when President Bush addressed Congress on September 20th - and we all felt better? Why did we feel better? Nothing had changed from the time his speech began to the time it ended. We felt better because a leader rose up and said: (summary paraphrase) "I will take you from the old to the new - and we will succeed." He basically, in some 40 master-crafted minutes talked us through this first phase of transition. He didn't pretend to know all the answers, but was confident about the outcome.

Transition involves a journey from one identity to the other (for major changes), and that takes time. There are some things in life you just can't rush. It takes nine months to have a baby no matter how many people you put on the job!

Change scares people. And all leaders must face the fact that people don't like change.Whether by design or by default, everyone is dealing with change.Change means stepping into the unknown. It means giving up established ways of being and doing. Change means risk, turbulence and, often, conflict. Even sought-after, desired change puts demands on people that can be uncomfortable, scary or even a source of regret.

God is a God of new ideas, of innovation. God is a God who uses change.We must pray for new visions.We cannot be content with what is.We must crave what can be!That which holds our attention will determine our actions!

God told Isaiah in Isaiah 43:18-19:"Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new."

We can learn from Moses. Hebrews 11:27 remind us: "By faith he left Egypt not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen."Those last words are words, which should instruct us. Moses’ eyes were on God and he was able to endure. The Living Bible says: he "kept right on going!"Moffatt’s translation says, "He never flinched."

Moses had staying power even in the midst of all the changes that challenged him. There are no easy answers. Turning around a dwindling church that is steadfastly clinging to the past takes hard work and lots of prayer. But Jesus said that with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26.) I think you can take Him at His word.


Scriptures for change: 

Matthew 16: 13-19; 23:27; Luke 19: 37-40; Galatians 6:7-10;  

Joshua 1:9 says “Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” God says stick with it. To be a success in life, you must outlast your critics.


Useful Resources for Further Study: 

Cultural Shift: Transforming Your Church from the Inside Out by Robert Lewis and Wayne Cordeiro

Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey by Jim Herrington, Mike Bonem, and James H. Furr 

The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen

BLUR: The Speed of Change In the Connected Economy by Stan Davis and Christopher Meyer 

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

How Your Church Family Works: Understanding Congregations as Emotional Systems by Peter L. Steinke 

A Sense of Urgency By John P. Kotter 

Leading Change By John P. Kotter 

Deep Change by Robert Quinn 

Driving Change: The UPS Approcach to Business by Mike Brewster and Frederick Dalzell 

The Change Function: Why Some Technologies Take Off and Others Crash and Burn by Pip Coburn 

The Change Monster: The Human Forces that Fuel or Foil Corporate Transformation and Change by Jeanie Daniel Duck


 [1] John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen, The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, Harvard Business School Press, 2002, pg. X.

 [2] Britannica Online Encyclopedia, William S. Knudsen, 4/2/2009. 

 [3] Robert Lacy, Ford: The Man and the Machine.

 [4]Maxwell, John C., Developing the Leaders Around You, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1999, c1995.

 [5] Basic Training Journey, North American Mission Board, SBC. Unit 6, 2009.

[6] Leading Change, John P. Kotter. Harvard Business School Press, pg. iiix.

[7] John Savage, Listening and Caring Skills, Abingdon Press, 1996. Pg?

[8] Kellie Fowler, Mindtools on Active Listening, Hear the Message, pg. 5. For further help with developing listening skills go to Copyrighted Mindtools 2005.

 [9] An excellent list of 10 quick and easy steps you can take to ensure that you are hearing another person’s word can be found at Search for Mindtools on Active Listening and go to the article on Listen Up: Remove the Barriers; Hear the Words, pg. 8.

 [10] John P. Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press, 1996. pg.133.

[11] For assistance with those churches facing the need to restart a church plant or existing church useful resources can be found at by searching in the church planter section under the word: Restart.

 [12] Bill Easum, A Second Resurrection, (need to finish footnote) .

[13] Easum ibid

[14] John McGuire is a senior program associate at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). His diverse work history includes senior business management positions in corporate settings, including Digital Equipment Corporation and Fidelity Investments. John is currently research and development practice leader for the Change Leadership team and co-author with Gary Rhodes of Transforming Your Leadership Culture (Jossey-Bass, March 2009). 


By Tom Cheyney