Research about change says the greater the pain or dissatisfaction with the present the greater the motivation for change and the lower the resistance. Church leaders experiencing a gap between the way things are now in the life of the church and the way they want them to be find that their concerns generally fall into a couple of categories:
Survival Driven Concerns: The urgency for change flowing from immediate crises in a local church is often tied to survival concerns. Concern related to membership patterns, participation patterns, leadership, aging buildings, safety, and finances contribute to a mindset of scarcity that heightens a sense of urgency but often channels thinking away from missional concerns. “Churches that are in serious condition will state their goal as “keeping the door open.” It is as simple and blunt as: “We don’t want to see God’s business fold up; we just want to survive.” Don’t close the doors is hardly a soul-stirring slogan, yet that is precisely the vision at the core of survivalist thinking. The anxiety present in such churches does not lead to helpful readiness for change but more often plays itself out as an unwillingness to take risks with so little energy to invest. It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. While there is great anxiety in such churches often there is little readiness for change.
Vision Led Concerns: Some church leaders reading the signs of the times recognize that even when a church looks “successful” there are more pervasive forces at work and a different set of criteria needed to measure the ministry of the church within a changed context. One pastor with a newly completed and paid for education wing described his church as complacent, stagnant and without any passion to guide it into the future. By most standards in North America this church was stable and thriving. It took courage to initiate an effort at transformation in the face of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” On the surface for this church there was no perceived urgency in the membership for change. Operating out of deep theological convictions about the nature and calling of the church this pastor began to stimulate readiness for major change by initiating reflection about how God is doing something new.
Which concerns do you see in your context?