Change is painful! You already knew that…but there is such thing as “smart pain” and “dumb pain.” Let me explain…
After my mom quit smoking she decided to get in shape. She wasn’t obese but she hadn’t exercised in a long time. So she got up one morning and said, “I’m getting in shape.” She got down to do some sit ups. “Uhhh…” She could not do 1! No joke. Nor a push-up. She walked around the block and about died.
I laughed. What a supportive son I was!
I didn’t pay attention after that to her attempt to get in shape, but about a year later she asked me to go with her to a 5K race walk. I was cocky and said, “I’m not just going with you. I’m entering and I’m going to beat you!” So I did…enter, that is. I got an early lead on her and many others (after getting a tutorial on what race walking was precisely). After about 2 or 3K my shins were killing me. I wanted to quit. But I’m too competitive to quit. So I just slowed down…to a crawl. Everyone was passing me. Some 80 year-old lady passed me. My mom passed me (laughing at me). I finished the race and I didn’t come in last but I was in pain. I hadn’t trained for it so I paid a stiffer price than most of the other racers.
What’s my point? My mom trained for that day. And over the year she went through muscle fatigue but now she was in shape! I hadn’t done anything to prepare but I wish I had. My shins ached for a week and I finished at the back of the pack.
Change in any church or organization is like that. It’s going to hurt either way, but there is “smart pain” and “dumb pain.” If you prepare, do your homework, survey the landscape, take things slow, help the “middle adopters” understand the changes you propose then the changes will still hurt. Some people will still complain, maybe leave, but you laid the groundwork for success. Most people will understand it and eventually embrace it. But if you ignore the proper process of change in your organization, refuse to listen to others’ opinions, never compromise, and say, “To heck with those who disagree,” then the changes will hurt . People you love (and who love you) will leave because they don’t understand the need for those changes because you didn’t explain it. And you’ll look stupid.
I am told by reliable people that the 20/60/20 principle as it relates to church life is true.
- 20% of people will readily adapt to change.
- 60% will eventually adapt with support and encouragement.
- 20% NEVER WILL.
So let the 20% that won’t adapt go gracefully as possible. They aren’t “bad” people but don’t expect them to “come around.” Don’t spend all your energy trying to win them over. Build on islands of health and strength. Go with the people who want to go with you.
Character is the sum total of our:
- self-discipline (the ability to do what’s right even if you don’t feel like it).
- core values (principles you live by that empower you to make a moral stand).
- sense of identity (a realistic self-image based on your gifts and personality and most importantly for Christians, who you are in Christ).
- emotional security (the capacity to be emotionally stable and consistent).
Your skill may get you to the top, but it’s your character that will keep you there.
While leadership skills are good to have, it does no good to develop your skills at the expense of your character and integrity.
So lead yourself well before you try leading others.
Strong character will hold you up strong and long enough to use your skills.
Skip to 11:00 to get to the iconic and might I say “prophetic” part of this speech.
Jesus was more than a leader. As the Son of God, we see in Christ every trait perfected and the only One who can purchase redemption by His sinless life sacrificed in our place. Therefore we look to Him as our primary example of Christian leadership. As you read over the descriptions, take time to assess your own life and activity as a leader.
- Jesus invested in people. Jesus demonstrated incredible confidence in the potential of people to let Him use them for a higher purpose. He doesn’t just want us to “believe” in Him. He believes in us!
- Jesus saw long and far. In John 17:20 Jesus was living beyond the moment.With the pressures of NOW, it is possible for us to shorten our sight. But we must think the long term.
- Jesus sent people away from Him on mission. The environment around Jesus was like an airport terminal. Disciples were constantly coming and going to practice what they had learned and to serve others.
- Jesus grieved for communities. Jesus could look over a city (Luke 19:41-42) and be heartbroken over the rebellious nature of its’ inhabitants. Jesus wept over a community and calls us to love ours.
- Jesus led a balanced life. By “balance,” I mean that he invested perfectly into multiple environments. Jesus knew the value of time away from crowds to spend time with His Father.
- Jesus embraced other cultures. He was not afraid or offended by Samaritans. He went out of his way to talk with them and refused to give up when they rejected Him. The heard of Jesus is for people, all people.
- Jesus surrendered His will to the Father. True Christian leaders are in tune with the heart of God. We must resolve to do WHATEVER the Father requires. Jesus gave up His human will for God’s higher purpose. So must we.
- Jesus surrounded Himself with lost people. By offering grace and truth, Jesus was attractive to lost people.
- Jesus’ harvest vision was leveraged by prayer. We have no ability to transform anything without God’s power. Matthew 9:37-38. The source for harvest workers is not in recruitment strategies, but in prayer. Prayer recognizes God as externally focused.
- Jesus felt the needs of people. Why did Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus? Jesus was a man who deeply loved others. He cared for people who were hungry and afraid. He cared for the physically sick and the spiritually oppressed.
Is a great church one that does great things like have excellent programs, preaching or praying? Is it great because of its size? I don’t think so.
Ed Stetzer’s and Thom Rainer’s book Transformational Church reminds me of some things I already knew but haven’t talked about in a while. A great church is one in which LIFE CHANGE is happening at the individual and corporate level. How does a church begin to do that?
- They must rely more on God’s empowered mission and biblical mandate than the personal preferences of the congregation. Sadly, Christians are often more in love with the way they do church than they are in love with people in their community. The church must develop a “missionary mentality.” That means that the church understands the community and will minister in contextually appropriate ways to reach local people with the gospel. Moving to an external focus pushes the church from “doing missions” as part of some program into being “on mission as a way of life.”
- Vibrant leadership. Change starts with the leaders of the church. Vibrant leaders lead their people to worship, live in community, and live on mission. They are leaders who are being transformed in the presence of the people they lead. When the church assumes the role of missionary, a radical shift in the view of leadership must take place. The old model was to hoard and retain control. Vibrant leaders seek to empower and multiply. Leadership is the stewardship to help others exercise their gifts. We must move away from “How may I serve you?” to “How can I help you serve?”
- Relational intentionality. The church was designed by Christ as a collection of people participating in one another’s lives. So the church must provide platforms for new people to engage in significant relationships with one another and with people in need. A challenge today is that most people find themselves too busy. So we must teach people how to create relational space. But first we’ll have to teach why. Another challenge is to produce familial relationships without creating a closed group. This includes providing space for difficult people.
- Prayerful dependence. Prayer is the engine of truly great churches. Characteristics of praying churches? They have praying leaders. They commonly experience answers to prayer. They value corporate prayer. They engage their communities with prayer.
- A sense of anticipation and expectancy surrounds their worship services. While they may count attendance, a better barometer is how many encountered the transforming presence of God through worship. This means that people have to actively participating in worship, not just listening to a talking head or following along in their bulletin.
Is there anything you would add or subtract from this list? How have you seen these in your church?
Right timing makes a good decision a better decision.
When leaders fail to seize the moment, their leadership is undermined. The most common reason we FAIL to seize the moment is a fear of failure. How’s that for irony?! In leadership there’s no such thing as zero risk. If your mission is great, you will have to incur great risk to fulfill it.
When trying to discern the right time to take action, get feedback from your key people. As a leader, you will experience times when fear will try to get the better of you. But good leaders understand that ripe opportunities are never completely devoid of fear. And they moved forward despite the hesitation they may experience.
Dear God, I recognize that You have provided a season for everything and that I fit into Your divine purpose. I ask for discernment to understand Your timing. Give me the wisdom and courage to make the right decisions regardless of the cost, for I don’t want to miss out on the plan You have for my life.