The Wall Street Journal reports that one of the key reasons for the continued growth of McDonalds restaurants is their continually embracing of change. What began as the original fast food provider of burgers, fries and a soft drink or shake, now daily serves pancakes, eggs and bacon or sausage for those who want breakfast. They serve salads, flatbread sandwiches and wraps for those with an appetite for a light lunch. A large portion of their revenue now comes from all sorts beverages like smoothies, and coffee drinks served both hot or cold from their McCafe’ menu. In some cases, there have been so many changes, that the company has had to advertise that they still sell Big Macs. As a representative of McDonalds told the WSJ, “Change is a part of our business.”
Understanding the importance of change has made McDonalds the nation’s best performing restaurant. So, what do the changes at a fast food restaurant chain mean to you, a leader in Christ’s Church. I believe change should be a part of our business as well. I have always considered the church as being in the ‘changed lives’ business and as the needs and wants in our culture changes, we must change accordingly. But I also understand that change is difficult, and it always has been.
Remember when the young man came to Jesus seeking eternal life and when he heard what he needed to do to change… He walked away sad? (Matthew 19:16-24) Jesus then responded to the crowd that had gathered,
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. “Matthew 19:24 The young man was unwilling to change, even if it meant receiving the greatest benefit of all.
Realizing that change is difficult, we as leaders in the church must understand that there are reasons why most people resist change.
Here are just a few:
- Self-Interest. Some people see change as an imposition on their territory. Silos and walls go up and people want to control their turf. Some people need to exert control over their immediate surroundings and want to feel like they have a say in their own future. Like it or not, we human beings are territorial and want some sense of power.
- Misunderstanding or a Lack of Trust. I have said a thousand times that “Most people are down on what they are not up on. What people don’t understand, they will resist. Therefore, communication of change is so important. But just because we communicate change well doesn’t mean people will. Leaders must accrue enough of the currency of trust for others to follow them through the changes.
- People can be lazy. Change requires action and many people just don’t want to put out the effort to make changes in their habits and behaviors. They see the cost of their efforts greater than the benefits the changes may produce.
Jesus himself addressed this very issue throughout the Gospels. In the ancient world there were no glass or plastic bottles so instead they would put liquids into animal skins that were sewn together and used like canteens. Eventually these skins would become brittle and would break, spilling out the liquid.
Jesus referred to these wineskins to teach us about change. “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” Luke 5:37
He said, “New wine must be poured into new wineskins.” This is a principle of life: new situations always require new structures. A new job often requires you to learn new skills. A new relationship often requires new ways of relating. For new people to be attracted to Christ’s church new wineskins will have to be created and that will require change.
What are your old wineskins? What are your outdated practices that worked well in the past but are not helpful and will have to be changed as we go about our business of changing new lives for Christ.