Daniel M. Cash and William H. Griffith
The following article is an excerpt from our book The Changing Church. This article is soon to be published by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership in their online newsletter Leading Ideas.
Leading is a challenge in the most tranquil of circumstances within congregations today. When you add the layer of introducing or working toward change on top of the myriad of things already required, “challenging” may feel too soft a word. But there are ways to lead past the common internal and external obstacles to change.
- Know that relationships are key.
Being a person of impeccable integrity is without question a
need in any public leadership role, most especially in the church. Taking time
to know and love the people whom you lead, including those who are at times
hard to love is also important. In a word, it comes back to relationships. Good
leaders, leaders who earn the right to lead change, know that relationships are
key — building them and maintaining them. Mobilizing the right people to
support the change initiative is far easier when one already has a solid
relationship with those people.
In our new book The Changing Church: Finding Your Way to God’s New Thing my friend and co-author, Bill Griffith, and I distinguish between two kinds of change congregations and their leaders often face. These are “continuous” and “discontinuous” change. Here’s an excerpt from chapter two where we define these types of change:
Continuous change, sometimes also referred to as incremental change, is change that is tied to past experience. In working through this type of change, we simply are making an adjustment in something we’ve had prior experience with and want to improve.
Discontinuous change is change for which we have no prior experience or reference point. It is change of a completely new direction or orientation, outside our experience and prior knowledge. Many of the challenges that congregations face today are of a discontinuous nature.
Which type of change have you found more common in your congregation’s ministry of late? How do you begin to approach discontinuous change? We invite you to pick up a copy of our book to learn more about this and how to have conversations with one another in a congregational setting.
“Phyllis Tickle, in her book, The Great Emergence, quoting Anglican Bishop Mark Dyer, suggests that about every 500 years the church has undergone a significant change. She refers to these periods of change as “rummage sales” and states that we are in the midst of such a period today. Tickle identifies former 500 year rummage sales as The Great Reformation (Oct. 31, 1517), The Great Schism (1054—Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic), the leadership and influence of Gregory the Great (540–590—following the fall of Rome and start of the Dark Ages), and the Crucifixion of Christ, which led to the birth of the Church at Pentecost.
I, (Dan), despise rummage sales, but it seems to be my fate in ministry to have served congregations that used them for fundraisers. Here’s my view on how they work. People bring their junk, their cast-offs, the stuff they want to get rid of (rummage) to the church and clutter it up. A committee spends an inordinate amount of time sorting through it all and arranging the rummage for others to peruse. Then, on the day of the sale, folks come with an eagerness to riffle through other people’s junk, finding prizes they simply cannot live without and paying pennies on the dollar to haul it away.
A few years after I listened to a podcast on The Lord’s Prayer by Adam Hamilton, I changed how I pray this final phrase of Jesus’ prayer. Hamilton suggested that we put a comma (,) after the words “Lead us,”. When you do this it changes the way you hear and pray this phrase.
How often do you ask the Lord to lead in your life? You may feel you do that fairly often. But when I’m honest, I am more likely to tell the Lord what I need and see if God will follow my lead. Are you? By inserting this comma after “lead us”, I have been reminded to seek God’s leading. I will even sit in silence sometimes, having been invited to pause by that comma, to consider what it is I need God’s leadership in that day or moment. I invite you to try it.
Most of us are all for forgiveness as it concerns our need to be forgiven by God, through Christ, for our sins. But, if we are honest, we’d likely prefer that the forgiveness be “unconditional” in nature. That is, we understand and appreciate that nothing we can do will earn or purchase the forgiveness of God’s grace as it is so generously poured out on us by Jesus.
So, why is it that when it comes to praying for forgiveness, in the prayer taught his disciples, Jesus makes it a “conditional” request? Do you remember this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer?: Forgive us our sins (trespasses) as we forgive those who sin (trespass) against us.