Change is hard. As humans, we tend to thrive in the consistency and security of routine. Though some may consider themselves adventurous in certain aspects of life, humanity tends to stick to things they are comfortable and familiar with rather than experimenting with change. However, everyday we wake up is a day we are one day different than we were yesterday. This change occurs, not just in the individual, but with society as a whole. Though we can take great comfort in knowing the Bible and Gospel truths never change, we must also acknowledge that our understanding of those truths change constantly (if we are genuinely seeking to understand them), and the society we are trying to impact with the Gospel message is constantly changing as well. So how do we wed the never changing Gospel truth with a constantly changing community? This is the main question Thom Rainer is wrestling with in his most recent release, “Who Moved My Pulpit?”
Rainer, the President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, created this work with the express purpose of creating a resource for the pastor or church leader that is attempting to work through a change. He states, “[T]his book is for all pastors seeking to lead their churches to change. This book is for church staff and lay leaders who want to make a positive contribution toward leading change in the church” (p. 3).
The motivation for developing “Who Moved My Pulpit?” originated after having conversations with thousands of pastors, utilizing on-the-ground research from more than 50,000 churches, and realizing that a book on change from a Christian perspective was sorely needed. Rainer develops an eight-stage roadmap for leading change in the church: (1) Stop and Pray; (2) Confront and Communicate a Sense of Urgency; (3) Build an Eager Coalition; (4) Become a Voice and Vision of Hope; (5) Deal with People Issues; (6) Move from an Inward Focus to an Outward Focus; (7) Pick Low-Hanging Fruit; and (8) Implement and Consolidate Change.
Why is change important to the church today? As Rainer acknowledges, “[N]ine out of ten churches in North America are losing ground in the communities in which they are located. They are declining or growing more slowly than their respective communities” (p. 27).
With the majority of congregations stuck stagnant, moving forward is an imperative and “such going requires forward movement, and it requires removing the obstacles that will hinder the progress” (p. 27).
In the opening chapter, Rainer acknowledges that one of the most dangerous elements of a leader, is the danger of becoming overconfident. Conflict is not a one and done experience. Rainer notes, “any significant change in an organization will have reactions that extend well beyond the change itself” (p. 11). If a leader expects to see his followers embrace change, then the leader must be a positive model of leadership and healthy change must start with leadership. This resource is designed to help walk the leader through leading a change from a Christian perspective.
The next chapter addresses five kinds of unmovable church members: the deniers, the entitled, the blamers, the critics, and the confused. Rainer provides a profile of the typical established church membership and determines the break down is as follows: Eager early adopters: 5%; Willing adopters: 20%; Crowd-following adopters: 30%; Resistant adopters: 25%; Highly resistant adopters: 20%. In order to avoid conflict with these various types of church members, the role as a leader must execute three major components: “First, you have to lead the congregation to face reality. Then you have to communicate that reality and the steps needed to move forward again and again. Finally, you must communicate with a sense of urgency” (p. 44-45).
Leading change efficiently is of utmost importance, as the Church does not have time to spend distracted on inward quarrel when there is an urgency to the Gospel message we proclaim. As the leader, there are three elements that Rainer encourages of the leader in leading change: (1) They read the Bible daily; (2) They choose to communicate hope; and (3) They look for low-hanging fruit (p. 69). The leader must, “become a voice of hope and provide a clear vision for the church to move forward in a strategic fashion” (p 74).
Overall, this is a great resource for the church leader seeking counsel in how to lead change in the church. As noted by Rainer, his intended audience is for the pastor, the church staff person, the elder, the deacon. If you are a church leader with minimal training in church leadership, this is a great starter resource. This book can even be used in the discipleship process as the next generation of leaders is being trained in the ways of the church to help be proactive in being prayerful and intentional in leading the church through change in the future.
Time spent reading “Who Moved My Pulpit?” was enjoyable and profitable for evaluating the process of leading change. This book is a must read for anyone leading change, whether you are a Sunday School teacher, a church program volunteer, someone considering becoming a pastor, or a seasoned minister.
If you are interested in receiving a copy, or discussing potential change in your area of service to your church, I would love to chat with you. Send me a message!