That Will Never Work

These days, it’s rare to meet someone who’s been in the same position for his or her entire career. But, while most of us understand that transitioning to another role is a near-certain eventuality for any professional, we often assume that these changes won't happen in our own workplace, school, or place of worship.

I currently serve in ministry day to day, generally wearing two hats. My primary role is that of Lead Pastor for our local expression of faith, Randall Church. My secondary role is that of a volunteer church planting catalyst for the Frontier Baptist Association, starting new, autonomous churches, affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention all over the Western NY region.

This month, Hal Haller, the director for church planting in our state resigned from his role in order to, (imagine this) plant a church in an area of need. It’s disruptive when anyone resigns from his or her post, but especially so when the head honcho is involved—after all, he or she was holding the group together, right? Maybe he or she was. But maybe not.

I have seen a number of people and organizations in my circle of relationships undergo significant changes recently for a variety of reasons. People moving away for work, people becoming disgruntled and leaving, people losing the battle to an illness, as well as people following a God-given directive to "go unto the least of these." In each situation, change is imminent for the organization.

Whether it is the large-scale change that comes when an influential leader is replaced, or the systematic change that an established local church must go through in order to rebuild, grow, and thrive for the next generation: Change is inevitable. Change is necessary if organizations want to continue to improve and grow, yet change will always raise resistance from some people. Why? Change is difficult. 

Group, a Christian publishing company used by our church and many others as well, frames the "change obstacle" this way: Something’s stifling the church. Hindering outreach. And often keeping ministries like yours from fulfilling its full potential. What’s crippling us are these four words: “That will never work.”

I'm currently studying the book of Nehemiah. God was using this man to rebuild and restore broken walls, and broken hearts. Yet, on every side, it seems like he would have to deal with opposition, even with those he thought were in his corner. Why is it so tempting to slam the door on new ways of doing things? And how can you move people in your church past that tendency? Often, “that will never work” masks excuses people are afraid to voice openly. Here are three of those excuses—and how to move past them...

We've Never Done It That Way Before
These words are spoken in many organizations, but for some reason, they seem ostensibly Baptistic. How many times have good ideas been thrown out, only because they are new? The church has a strict responsibility to never change the Message, yet our methods of delivering it and embodying it must be flexible. How can you lead people to move past this excuse? Don’t get defensive. A healthy response to criticism can diffuse tensions and open up opportunities for dialogue. Calm reassurance that everything is an experiment goes a long way!

We've Already Tried That
These words are actually probably true. However, this excuse is missing the fact that time has passed, the players have changed, and the circumstances have shifted. A great idea implemented poorly in the past should not eliminate it from the discussion for all of time to come! How can we move past this excuse? Be an incredible listener. If things went badly before, it would be incredibly foolish to make the same mistakes all over again. Learn from the past, but do so while moving toward the future.

That Won't Work Here
These words are spoken often, assuming that this particular setting has never been experienced by the rest of humanity before. This is simply not true. Let me be clear, it can be a grave mistake to assume what was prescribed in that NY Times best seller on church growth will just "pop" if you follow it line by line. However, Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us "there is nothing new under the sun." How do you move past this excuse? Be open to compromise. Take a look at that concept you saw somewhere else, and ask others to try to see it through the lens of your current situation. What would need to be altered? What might be successful?

Change is gonna come. Neighborhoods are going to shift. Leaders are going to move on. Don't panic. While this anxiety is natural, because our hearts are built to long for what is stable and secure - we won't find that until we meet God in Glory. Keep calm and carry on, for negotiating through this change might just be exactly what God has purposed you for!

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. Nehemiah 2:17-18


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