What Not To Change In Church

2017….Five Hundred years after the Protestant Reformation. And, here we are poised another round of significant change in God’s Church. While this is
spiritually invigorating and wonderfully exciting to some, others are afraid change means everything about church must change. Those believing the latter tend toward reluctance, hesitation, and resistance while engaging change-oriented dialogue with their churches. Fortunately, this too can change.

This is where Adaptive Change Theory is so helpful to the Christian Movement. Heifitz, Grashow, and Linsky describe the adaptive process well in The Practice Of Adaptive Leadership: “The actions involved in enabling an organism to thrive in a new or challenging environment. The adaptive process is both conservative and progressive in that it enables the living system to take the best from its traditions, identity, and history into the future.” Effective healthy change in congregations is both conservative and progressive.

So, now is the time to step back, taking a critical look at our traditions, identity, and history, conserving the life-giving strands of our DNA. Just like we don’t expect individuals to lay aside their personalities and uniqueness when becoming Christ-followers, we don’t expect churches to stop being themselves. Each church has personality, gifts, talents, and themes which are cherished and appreciated. When entering change processes, the aim is not to eradicate these good gifts and traits. Instead, we want to move into space where we can explore how these assets can be lived out now, in this context. In essence, we reach back into our histories, importing them into the present.

Perhaps congregational leaders can help disciples to gravitate toward the necessary changes before us by informing and reminding them change involves conservation. We want to reach into our history, bringing forward our gifts, continuing God’s good work among us. Simultaneously, the way we express our identity in this stage of our collective lives looks different that at previous times and places. We as humans express our personalities and personhood differently in different life seasons, as do churches.

Ultimately, we want to be faithful to God’s calling to the best expression of Church we can be at this time and in this place. To that end, may we conserve what’s best about us, while finding innovative ways to express what it means to be church now.

Mark Tidsworth
President, PLA