As I move through the stages of my life, I find myself struggling to adapt as well as I did when I was younger. My body moves more slowly, my daily routine has settled into patterns I enjoy, and the options I prefer at home, or out and about, are typically the same. I am a product of my age.
Churches are similar. As they age, they have developed patterns of behavior and personality that are more than predictable—they are preferred. Churches become accustomed to worship in the same way, at the same time, every week. They have the same programs and special events annually. The members prefer to congregate with the same people regularly, typically with others who enjoy similar experiences as they do. They too are a product of their age.
This is among the reasons why churches need to be replanted and revitalized. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Routines replace risk. Caution replaces initiative. And, often, “my” needs and preferences replace “their” needs and preferences.
‘Change’ is an uncomfortable, but necessary, word in the life of a replanter! Even though they are aware it is needed and necessary, pastors often struggle with implementing change, because they lack the “know how” to address the issues before them. In these moments, it is wise to remind us of two key concepts.
First, for change to take place, people have to become convinced the alternative is more valuable than the status quo.
In a replant, most of the members who are left have become convinced their situation is desperate and they are in dire straits; it is fairly easy for them to perceive the danger of things remaining the same in the future. In a revitalization situation, this is not always so easy or obvious. In such instances, pastors may need to convince the church members that a different path or future is truly better than what is currently being experienced. Members will perceive “loss” on their part, and thus, it will take time for them to accept the need and the recommended change. Pastor, while you may appeal to their heads logically with data and information to support your claim for change, please note that God must eventually convince the heart before members will agree.
Second, change depends upon a nucleus of leaders in the church who agree the change needs to take place.
This “guiding coalition” takes ownership of the suggestion and adds strength and credibility to the recommended change. Pastor don’t attempt to bring about this change on your own! You need a team of willing participants, who believe in you, the suggested change and, most importantly, our Lord, who leads His church. This nucleus of leaders will build momentum, recruit others to get on the bandwagon and see the change through to implementation. How do you win over the hearts of these key leaders? One person at a time. Share with them, listen to them and pray with them. Give them time to process and decide. Remember that most people dislike change at first, but will be agreeable, if given enough time. Be patient, loving and persevering.
Paul reminds us of this when he writes to the church at Thessalonica: “We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3). In these moments, when change is presented, the church needs to see your faith, love, and hope at work on their, and ultimately, His, behalf. It can make all the difference.
This is the fourth in a series of posts from David’s book, “RENEW: Traveling the Forgotten Path,” available on Amazon.
Published October 29, 2020