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Understanding Change

“The day you put a screen over our baptistry is the day I will take you outside and work you over!”  That is truly what one deacon declared to his new pastor at his first deacon meeting.  Certainly not the best beginning into a new ministry.  While this is an extreme response, all of us are guilty of resisting change.  This is why it is difficult for many churches to see change happen, and honestly why leaders often struggle to suggest and bring change about in their congregation.  Yet change is one thing that is constant in life whether we welcome it or not.  Scientist, historians, physicians, and experts in various fields will all agree – change is inevitable. The only question is whether or not we will be reactive or proactive.  In the last number of weeks, I have shared articles about the need for churches to understand their mission, values, community and then develop a vision for the future.  All of these things are proactive endeavors to help a church navigate their way to a better future. Once a church understands their current realities and then makes plans for a more healthy and fruitful future, one thing is required – change.  However, the one common denominator that prevents achieving a brighter future is – resistance to change.  Often this resistance is related to either fear or lack of urgency.  We either fear that suggested ideas for change will fail, lead to our discomfort, eliminate our preferences or we are not convinced that it is needed or a better option than the status quo.  However, if a church hopes to reach the next generation, advance the gospel effectively in a changing world, and faithfully fulfill the Great Commission change is necessary.  Not our message, but our methods.  Next week I’ll share some principles of how to lead effective change.  By the way, that deacon mentioned earlier recognized he was in the wrong and eventually the screen was installed – and the church saw revitalization happen, not because of a screen but because of a willingness to change and do whatever is appropriately necessary to advance the gospel. – Dr. Gary Mathes