This is Part 1 of a 5-part posting on the topic of leading change in the church. There is no lack of opportunity to facilitate change. While there are pockets of great church vitality, far too many are characterized by stagnancy and decline. If change were easier, the need for it would be much less. But it's not easy and many churches need to develop a more effective change-leadership tool bag.
We have a firm promise that Jesus will and is building His Church (Mt. 16:18). However His method is actually a blend of His superintendence of the Church and the development of its leaders in each church. That development is the focus of my thoughts. Of the 5 Essentials I would like to share, each church leadership team is likely strong in some areas and weaker in others. It is my hope that these postings will provide a way for churches to self-assess and grow.
The first essential I have observed is that effective change leaders define healthy change. They come to consensus on the answers to these three questions:
· What are the functions of The Church?
· What should be the form of our church?
· What is a biblical, culturally-sensitive method of change in our church?
The first question is theological and ecclesiology to be exact. The answer tells us what is healthy for all churches for all time in all circumstances. An evangelical list here will include the Great Commission, the Great Commandment, and the functions of the church seen in Acts 2:42-47. Healthy change focuses on ensuring that we are assessing our strengths and weaknesses in these areas and moving to a better place of shepherding the church according to the revealed will of God (1 Peter 5:2).
The second question is contextual about our church. The answer tells us what is healthy because we are where we are in the year 2015 in Mumbai, Manhattan, or Minneapolis. It also takes into account the most effective structural form for our church size. Healthy change in this area focuses on ensuring that we are becoming and being a Jew to a Jew or a Gentile to a Gentile as we should (1 Cor. 9:19-23). It also ensures that our organizational structure serves the church and not vice versa.
The final question seeks a balanced perspective on the authority of leaders to make changes, and in American culture, it also appropriately involves people in decision-making. Most people do not want to be told what to do. Most also do not want to function independently of leadership. Most want to follow leaders who involve them, listen to them, and then make decisions and changes that are in the best interest of their local church. How that balance is achieved is another important contextual decision depending on the size of the church and its polity.
Leaders who take the time to define and lead healthy change in these three areas have the best opportunity to see their church simultaneously become healthier, more fruitful, and more unified.