How to bring about change in an established church.

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A number of people have asked me how to move an established church towards change. Change from performance to empowerment. Change from sitting silently in rows to actively participating in circles. Change from a passive audience to a facilitated learning community.

Change isn’t an easy process. Change only becomes desirable when the alternative is too painful to live with anymore. People diagnosed with diabetes or coeliac disease are willing to give up their favourite foods in order to improve their health and well-being. Many churches and pastors are struggling with a dawning realisation that the model they have used for so many years is no longer working. Their dissatisfaction with the status quo is driving them to consider a new model for a new era.

Neil Cole has written a blog post which lays out five steps for a church wrestling with the need to change. The church needs to see it (develop a vision for change), want it (feel the need badly enough to pursue change), pray it (the most pivotal step of all), pay for it (change always costs something – but the price is worth it), and do it (slowly at first, in phases and incremental steps).

Cole is convinced that the established church in the Western world is ready to receive a transfusion of organic life which will alter the way we meet together, minister to one another and impact the world. His latest book seeks to gift the established church with the wisdom and knowledge accumulated from many years of working with the missional church movement worldwide, and is a timely contribution to the growing awareness for the need for systemic change from within.


2 thoughts on “How to bring about change in an established church.

  1. Change is definitely hard in an esteblished church. But leadership means making change happen. I love Ronald Heifetz’s definition of leardership: “Leadership is disappointing people at a rate that they can handle.” Slow and steady, and eventually the change happens.

    • Great quote, Markus. Yes, change can be hard. Leadership can be even harder. But, sometimes, the pain is worth the gain. The reward is worth the risk. That’s why Jesus told us to consider the cost – and then go for it! (my paraphrase).

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