The change matrix

Communications Staff — April 24, 2010

By William D. Henard, assistant professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern Seminary and senior pastor of Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

Initiating change represents one of the most difficult tasks, if not THE most difficult task, pastors face. No one likes change. Change is difficult because it is sometimes viewed as attacking one’s “family,” i.e., church traditions, standing organizations or longtime ministries.  It also is tough because some changes are unnecessary.  Finally, it is difficult because, as pastors, we need to know “which hills are worth dying on.”  Quite honestly, we pick fights over issues that have little to do with Kingdom work.

So how do we initiate change in a palatable manner, especially as we seek to exalt Christ?  I do not think that any easy answers exist, nor do I believe that change can happen overnight (an issue with which most of us wrestle — we want it to happen now).  But I can suggest a reproducible process that is based upon a biblical model for change.

The change matrix

Let me suggest a four-step course of action. Calling it a matrix means that all four steps work concurrently, not just consecutively, and they must be repeated consistently.

Priorities

First, biblical priorities for the church must be set.  Various authors offer suggestions for the priorities of the church, but this particular matrix utilizes five priorities based upon Acts 2:41-47: (1) worship (Eph 5:18-20), (2) evangelism (2 Cor 5:18-19), (3) discipleship (Eph 4:11-15), (4) fellowship (1 John 1:6-7) and (5) ministry (1 Pet 4:7-11).

In order to communicate these priorities, it would be essential to preach a sermon series on them. These standards should also be taught and discussed within the leadership of the church. The congregation must “buy into” these priorities or the matrix will not work.  Therefore, discussion and discipleship are necessary.

Parameters

An important aspect of helping the church become confident with change develops out of the security of biblical parameters.  Many church members find themselves uncomfortable with change because of the fear of pragmatism.  The solution comes by insuring that all change will fall within certain biblical parameters.

The five parameters are: (1) holiness (Phil 3:10, 1 Pet 1:13-21), (2) excellence (Phil 1:9-11), (3) anticipation (Acts 1:4-5, 14), (4) relevance (1 Cor 9:19-23) and (5) teamwork (Phil 4:1-3).

Paradigms

In order to understand the effectiveness and extent of the change, communication and evaluation must take place with five specific groups of people or areas within the church. These people/areas provide an essential sounding board that will show the progress of, or resistance to, change. The five paradigms are: (1) pastoral staff, (2) lay leadership, (3) membership, (4) calendar and (5) budget.

In order to communicate the changes needed, start with the other pastors or elders of the church.  Move then to others in leadership, including church committees and deacons.  Finally, the need for change must come before the congregation, using whatever form of church polity is presently in place.  One might think that he is leading the church because he is called the leader, only to discover that no one is following.  Calendar and budget provide important evaluative measures because the changes are not really implemented until they are reflected what the church does and what it funds.

Process

Finally, a particular process must be followed in order to lead the church to understand the need for change and how these changes will be implemented.  The process is truly cyclical, as one must consistently and constantly review the changes made and the future direction of the church.

The process includes:

* Inward focus: the church must be led to discover a “holy dissatisfaction” with   their current status or accomplishments.  They must answer the questions, “Are we as effective as we can be, and are we accomplishing God’s plans for us?”

* Upward focus: a key element to finding this “holy dissatisfaction” arises out of a commitment to prayer.  As the church leader, lead your church to pray.  This prayer focus will move the church to a brokenness about personal sin. Being a vision caster for the church is essential at this moment.

* Outward focus: in order for the church to see the need for change, they must recognize more fully their role in the Great Commission.  As the church leader, help your church to personally get involved in doing missions and ministry outside the four walls of the church.  Contact your local association, state convention, the North American Mission Board or the International Mission Board for help in connecting with missionaries and putting together mission trips.  Personally take people on a mission trip.

* Church focus: once these new priorities have been set, lead your church to implement the dream.  Celebrate with them the victories that the church has and make sure to listen to your people.

* Biblical focus: be consistent in teaching the church about the centrality of biblical revelation (the truth, inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture), and make the preaching of the Word primary.  Be committed to expository preaching, whereby the depth of the Word is taught and proclaimed.  Avoid the pragmatism of initiating a program or method just because they work somewhere else.

Conclusion

As the matrix is implemented, remember that it is a constant process, not just a one-time presentation.  Continually use it to evaluate the effectiveness of the initiated changes but also employ the practice of accountability.  Change is never easy, but being wise in bringing about those changes can take away some of the sting and allow for effectiveness through the changes that are put into practice.

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