The Lord must be trying to tell me something. I’ve been reading about change and attended what I thought was a seminar on church revitalization, but it was really about leading lasting change. Many of the same principles were used.
John Kotter has the best reputation in the business world for “leading change.” He’s got a great book by that name, too. Kotter has eight steps to change that are widely recognized as successful. If your church or ministry needs change to actively making disciple-makers, consider these steps:
1. Is it urgent yet? Paint a picture for your church or small group that explains why making disciple-makers is so urgent. Step back and be realistic about what is not happening; what you’re missing.
2. What leaders will implement a churchwide heartcry for evangelizing? Kotter calls this a “guiding coalition” who has the authority – and guts – to do the right thing to make needed changes.
3. What is your vision for making disciple-makers as active witnesses? Let everyone know the opportunities. It helps to work backwards from a preferred future to identify strategies, resources, and people needed to get going.
4. How will you communicate your vision? Meet one-on-one and then with groups. Listen. Be bold! And never stop making disciple-makers.
5. Who needs to be empowered to act? Typically the most highly-relational people do best evangelizing in a warm, welcoming manner.
6. Are you celebrating “wins” along the way? How is the Lord bringing change? Brag on what God is doing!
7. What tweaks need to be made to keep on track? Change is good if it keeps moving forward. Learn from mistakes and build upon them. Keep training and raising up leaders who get it.
8. What structures and systems need to be changed to keep the movement going? Jesus said not to put new wine into old wineskins. Keep making adjustments as needed.
Not all change works. We’re after deep, systemic change that aligns with God’s way and His will.
Following Jesus requires dying to self (Luke 9:23) or dying like a seed in order to experience growth (John 12:24). Jesus commanded us to make disciples (Mt. 28:18-20) and Paul instructed Timothy to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5), so fruitfulness in the kingdom is an indicator of success.
Steve Hopkins, an Ohio Baptist leadership trainer, who led the workshop on change, used a chart that had four paradigms using Jesus’ parable of new wineskins. In which church are you? This gives you an insight on where to start:
• Old wine/old wineskins: Riveted to the status quo, highly resistant to change
• New wine / old wineskins: Great ideas are known, but old structures and systems can interfere
• Old wine / new wineskins: Tradition-bound thinking within new structures
• New wine / new wineskins: Church members are making disciple-makers as they are uninhibited, empowered to do it non-stop, and celebrated along the way.
Moving to a culture for making disciple-makers in many traditional, legacy churches, may be tough to implement. Be patient—and brutally honest. You certainly don’t want “silent sabotage” underway as people begin to lead people to Christ, but don’t follow-up. As I saw in many bus ministries eons ago, some secretly want to revert to their old, unfruitful ways.
Andy Stanley, an Atlanta pastor, once led a workshop on “system dynamics” at Exponential, an annual conclave for church planting. He said, “The chatter in the hall trumps the vision statement on the wall.” Do people actually trust what’s going on and reinforce it with their behaviors? What impedes or accelerates progress?
Change for change’s sake just swaps one set of problems for another. However, when we align with the Holy Spirit’s leadership and do the will of God, then making disciple-makers becomes valuable, desired, and fruitful in a way that exalts the name of Jesus.