Kingdom change agents are at risk of burnout, and there's so much still to do! So what to do? Here's a story of a church and a leadership style, and a huge change process.
Persistently and patiently and faithfully working to introduce a new paradigm, a new world view - that's what Kingdom citizens are about. Living the Easter life in a broken world. Inviting people into the new Kingdom dimension, even though it can be hard to perceive.
Change. Transformation. Conversion. These are words we use all the time, but it can be hard to see real change in lives, in congregations, in communities - Kingdom change, change that is deep, lasting, positive. Renovation of the Church is a book about change. But that's only one thing it's about! This is a story, a case study, a confessional, a challenge. Written by two pastors, it's the story of one congregation's experience as it went through the major upheaval of change from being a large successful seeker church to a much smaller congregation focused on spiritual formation.
Authors and Pastors Carlson and Lueken are painfully candid about their own leadership through the years of change. I was struck by the stark reminders about the cost of change for leaders and for members. I was struck by how long it takes and how complicated it is. One of the things I especially noted was how important the board was in the process. The pastors depended on the board, which stood by them like a rock. Not only was the board steadfast, it was also a huge support to them personally, a steady small community of accountability, encouragement, and a help in discerning how to stay faithful to the Spirit's leadership in the midst of frantic and painful turmoil.
The book raised a host of intriguing questions for me. How does change begin? To what extent has a "consumer culture" pervaded the Church? What styles of leadership are appropriate for different stages of organizational life? How to think about the "purpose" of the church and how to turn that into structure, and plans, and how to express that in the congregational life. What is the role of leadership more broadly in times of stress and challenge? How is "mission" expressed and lived?
Here's a thought provoking quote:
"...the more we pursued spiritual formation, the more we were convinced that Christlike people intentionally reach out to those who are ignored, forgotten and marginalized.... We make room for them... because this is what Jesus did." (p 140)
These leaders went from a driven, exhausted, frantic, success-driven style of leadership to something completely new for them - a focus on being like Jesus, following him at his pace, letting him work through them. Powerful stuff for tired deacons!