When a young man came to Jesus seeking eternal life, he was told what he needed to do to change. Remember how he reacted? He walked away sad. 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 long-time church members may see change as an encroachment on their territory. Walls go up and they want to protect their turf. Sometimes people seek to exert control over their immediate and comfortable surroundings. Like it or not, we human beings are territorial and want to micromanage our surroundings
- 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 most always immediately resist. Therefore, communication of change is so important. Even if we communicate change well, that doesn’t mean people will adopt those changes. 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.
- Plain and simple, change is uncomfortable and causes disruption to the status quo.
Jesus himself addressed this very issue throughout the Gospels and taught a parable about the necessity of change. 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. With age these skins would become brittle and would break, spilling out the liquid.
Jesus referred to these wineskins to teach us about the inevitability of 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 require new structures. A new job requires you to learn new skills. A new relationship 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 have become brittle and are no longer effective. What traditions, procedures, systems, classes or services will have to be changed if we are going to successfully go about our business of changing lives for Christ.
Change is Difficult … And Yet Change is Absolutely Necessary.
But change ALWAYS invites conflict. Always.
Conflict is “normal” and it’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s the bad behavior that comes from conflict that hurts the church.
Jesus gave the church a Conflict Prevention and Reconciliation plan, but there are few churches that implement his CPR Plan. However, there are some tried and true things you can do to put that plan into practice.
I put together the Church Covenants Template from actual churches that have put Jesus’ CPR Plan into practice. Templates that you can use to develop a working process that puts an end to the bad behavior that comes from conflict and change. It’s a freebie from The Effective Church Group that we hope and pray will help your church move past the conflict in change.
Those left in our church pews are the least likely to change. A sure sign that people have given up on change is that no one in leadership is actually investing in people who don’t currently attend church.
Sad but true!