I was at a Christian leadership conference earlier this week. The speaker was Tod Bolsinger, author of ‘Canoeing the Mountains’. I highly recommend the book. However, that is not what I am writing about today.
One point spoke loudly and freed me from a common leadership trap. When people are told by a Doctor that they must change or die. That is to say if you have one more cigarette, if you eat one more cake, if you have one more alcoholic beverage, you will die. 90% of people that face this kind of dilemma will not change. Think about this, for 90% of people facing a certain death is easier than radical change to survive. The same holds true when an institution needs radical change to survive. The resistance from the people of the organization is great.
Another truth about leadership that was taught is that lasting change can not happen through facts, fear, or force.
Why is this so freeing? Because I now know it is not always a lack of leadership ability that causes organizations to fail. I also realize that as a Pastor of a small church it may not be possible to radically change how we operate.
It is a fact that we are in the last generation of church as we have always known it. Just getting more people in the church seats will not change that fact. If somehow every church in town, that is holding onto traditional “church” methods, formed one big church congregation the doors would still close in the next fifteen years. Why? Because the world changed. Using a variation of the same tactics that worked forty years ago will not work today.
The Church will continue because it is the will of God. However many church buildings will become empty. Congregations will continue to decline in many places. But if you look around many new churches are being planted every year. The older churches that are growing and thriving have made radical adjustments without losing their core values.
I am at last at peace with the events of the past few years. I have a greater understanding of how God has used some painful events for my good. Today I can truly say it is well with my soul.
Change is not that scary to me. Failure is not an overwhelming concern either. Because of this I will seek radical, out of the box ways to reach a lost and dying world with the gospel. But it comes with a loss of traditional church methods.
Not everyone is comfortable with change It is likely that a day is coming when the church I serve at asks me to resign. This is okay. If possible, it should be with mutual care and respect. If it is best that the doors close in the future I would prefer it to be on another person’s watch.
Between now and the New Year I am focusing and praying for a new vision. To be a bit corny, think of it as “fresh vision for 2020”.
Rev. Burt Schwab