Moving Together

Here is my post that is on Ministry Matters:

As part of the Lewis Fellows Program, we got to visit Jacob’s Well church in Kansas and spent a couple of hours talking to the founding pastor Tim Keel. He went on to tell us about the Four Movements of Change that can occur in a church community.

The first, and easiest thing to change, is knowledge. The second, a bit harder than the first, is attitude. The third, more difficult, is an individual’s behavior. And the most difficult movement of change is group behavior, or the culture of the church.

While it may sound like common sense, I was struck by how much I (and other clergy) operate from the Fourth Level (changing culture) and sort of expect our people to be on the same level with us.

I think a lot of miscommunication and frustration take place because the majority of the church is still on the first movement or second movement of change, while we leaders expect everyone to be on the same level as us, the fourth—especially if we are new to the church. We want to change the culture of the church (fix all the bad habits, incorporate good ones, eliminate some ministries, start new ministries, etc) first and foremost.

The truth is, not everyone within our church is a church geek. And not everyone obsesses over the overall ministry of the church as much as we may. Not everyone knows who Rob Bell or Andy Stanley or Adam Hamilton or Mike Slaughter are. Not everyone cares about the great things that are happening in an urban church in Chicago while you’re located in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Not everyone spends their time reading about ministry, new sermon ideas, church blogs, bible study material, leadership materials, etc. Though you or your church leadership send lesson plans ahead of time, the small group leaders may not “study” it the way we intend them to or want them to. It is very likely that they are catching up on the lesson plans as they are waiting for the small group members to trickle in and begin. And that’s okay.

What I learned is that we need to move through the movement of change together. As a leader, I can’t be where I expect us to be as a church, and expect everyone to catch up to where I am. It just simply doesn’t work. Instead, we may have humble ourselves and start from the very beginning, which is where majority of the church may be. You know where God is calling the church. You cast the vision. You work with key members for the plan. But you have to be taking the first step with them; lead them to the pool and go in the water with them—if you will—instead of being in the pool waiting for them to jump into your arms.

I’ve learned that, as a leader, sometimes you have to spend your time in front of the church, guiding their way—leading them to the “promised land.” Other times, you have to be at the back of the group to make sure they’re moving along, giving them a gracefully stern nudge to keep them going. And other times, you have to move along next to them, being that cheerleader, encouraging them on.

The point is, we need to move together. Yes, we may know what the first step is, and yes, we may have already taken it. But we may be the only ones taking that first step. I am learning that it doesn’t often help for the pastor to say “This is what we’re going to do and please catch up to where I know we need to be.”

Is a leader truly a leader if nobody is following?

I believe it strengthens the church body when we move together; decide together; discern together; vision together; and most importantly, pray together. And in the process, we just may learn that God, in fact, had a different vision/dream/idea for our church than the one we thought was perfect for it.

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