When I meet with a pastor search committee I always ask them what they are looking for in their next pastor. One answer search committees often give is that the church is looking for a pastor who can lead them in change. It seems most church members understand they need to change; they just don't want to change unless their own comfort level isn't disturbed. What the majority of churches are looking for when they say they want a pastor to be a person who can lead change is that they want someone who can continually tweak the system to maintain the stability of the church and their own personal comfort level. They are not looking for a person to come in and lead them in any kind of transformational change that would change their systems and the appearance and feel of the church. Yet, it is only this latter type of change that can really enable our churches to have an effective ministry in the 21st century.
I often tell church leaders who attend my workshops that "Their system is perfectly designed for the results they are getting." There is a reason that approximately 80 percent of the churches in America are not growing; their church is structured in such a way as to prevent growth. There is a reason the lives of many Christians differ little from the lives of non-Christians; our churches have a discipleship system that isn't working. There is a reason why many churches struggle financially, and the reason isn't found in Washington, DC. They have a stewardship system that is broken. Rather than complain about the problems in our churches we need to identify the problem and then identify the system that is causing the problem and change it. Complaining about a lack of growth accomplishes nothing. Removing the barriers in the church that are preventing the growth will accomplish something, but these barriers cannot be removed without making transformational change in the structure of the church. Unfortunately, this kind of change is what is often rejected and opposed because it's messy and painful.
One of the things that will turn around a struggling, small church faster than anything is to identify God's vision for the church and begin to transform our church systems in a way that will allow that vision to come to pass. We need visionary pastors who will seek out what God wants to do in and through his or her church, and we need visionary lay leaders who will allow these pastors to introduce the necessary changes. Implementing many of these changes will be painful in the short term, but new life doesn't come without some measure of pain. We need to allow the momentary pain of change to occur so we can begin to enjoy the new life that these changes will bring to our church, its members, and the community we are called to reach.