There are a lot of bad reasons churches want to change.
- To keep up with trends
- To get bigger
- To have more available funds
- To appeal to a different group of people
- To break from tradition
- Because we’re bored
- Because we’ll die if we don’t
Some of them seem like good reasons, but none of them will sustain. Not on their own.
There are also a lot of bad reasons to want a church to stay the same.
- To keep long-timers happy
- To avoid risk
- To stay comfortable
- To maintain tradition
- Because we’re afraid
- Because change is hard
There’s only one good reason to move a church toward change.
Because the mission demands it.
This is also the only way to sustain the change in the long term.
This is why, despite all the bad reasons for and against change, the church must constantly be in a state of mission-driven change.
Make It About The Mission
No church has ever made a big change successfully unless it’s an essential part of the church’s overall mission. But when it is tied to the mission? It’s amazing what can happen.
For instance, earlier this year, our church changed lead pastors. After spending 25 years in the position, I stepped aside to make way for my long-time youth pastor to take over the position, while I became the teaching pastor.
When word got out that we were attempting such a big and unusual change, several people cautioned us that we were headed for a world of hurt.
But do you know who wasn’t worried about it? The people in the church – including the two of us at the center of the change.
Not because we have some special skills unknown to mere mortals, but for one simple reason.
We weren’t changing pastors simply for the sake of changing pastors. We did it so we could take the next step forward in the mission of the church. Changing pastors just happened to be one big, essential step in that direction.
We never made it about pastoral transition, because that’s not what the change was about. It was and is about moving forward with the mission God has given our church. And that’s why it worked.
The mission demanded change. And when the mission demands change, the momentum of the mission will drive the success of the change.
Change Is A Means, Not A Goal
If you’re in a church that you know needs to change, but it seems like you can’t get traction, maybe there needs to be an adjustment in perspective.
Change for the sake of change never works. Even if it brings short-term success, it will never help the church reach its long-term goals.
Change detached from mission brings frustration, conflict, burnout and failure. Because change is not a goal, it’s a means to a goal.
The church must always be about the mission.
Not about change.
Not about tradition.
Not even about a finding a healthy balance between change and tradition (good luck trying to keep those balls in the air!)
Only the mission is strong enough to help us make the right changes, motivate us to initiate those changes, keep us encouraged in the middle of long-term change, and bring about the needed results of the change.
Change is hard.
When it’s about change, it won’t work.
When it’s about the mission, it will work. Because the mission demands it. And the mission is all that matters.
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