Physicists call it inertia. An object will not move unless an external force is applied to it. People operate much in the same way. Their default setting is to remain where they are. As a result, one of the most demanding roles of a leader is to lead change.
By its very nature, a church is a learning organization. We are a people of the Book, which demands life-long learning… and change. A 17th-century pastor got it right when he said: “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” (the church reformed, always reforming).
Despite all these, it is still quite a challenge initiating and sustaining change in the church. The same equally applies in the office context. That is why there are so-called change management experts who assist corporations in navigating significant modification of the way things are.
Of course, certain things must not change. A Christian must hold firmly to the teachings of the Bible. Ditto for the church. Our foundational doctrines are not subject to alteration or negotiation. Apart from these, numerous aspects of church life could change and must be changed if we are to be relevant and transformative.
Leaders must realize that change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it is a product of a multiple-step process. In the Bible, we see that revelation is progressive as God slowly reveals His plan for the redemption of humanity. From the proto-evangelium in the garden (Genesis 3:15) to the various covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, God slowly led His people to a fuller understanding of salvation. The coming of the new covenant, the most radical change of all, was ushered in by preparatory activities (e.g. John the Baptist preparing the way).
High-quality leadership is essential to foster change. There are many managers, but much fewer leaders. Leaders have a vision, and they inspire people to make change happen, even amidst obstacles. In the Bible, we see great leaders such as Moses and David, who led their people to transformative change.
Today, we need leaders who will not shy away from change.