Guest post by Dan Riemenschneider

So you want to change your church. You know it is not where God wants His church to be and your heart is aching to see this wonderful creation of God become the disciple making movement God intended. (read part 1)

The Process of Change

The process of change follows a similar pattern to the disciple making process. First, if a church is going to change, then the thinking patterns, the mindset of those in leadership and those in the church will need to change. For most things that happen in the church, at some point there was a reason for something getting started. Perhaps it made sense at the time, but now it doesn’t. You realize that what you are doing is no longer making disciples. Perhaps it never did. Some things get started for the wrong reasons.

Paul says we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). If we are going to be the disciple making movement God intends then we are going to have to start thinking like Jesus. To do so will require change.

Second, if a church is going to change then the attitudes, the heart of those in leadership and those in the church will need to change. People usually have a vested interest in what is happening at the church. So taking something away can create havoc if not done correctly.

But the worst problem is our lack of love for those in the community. Churches who are not making disciples will discover a big reason for this is the judgmental attitudes of leaders and people in the church towards those without Christ.

And if we do begin to discover a love for those without God the second biggest hurdle is the attitude of “come and see.” We expect people without God to come to us rather than obeying what Jesus said, “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). To have a heart like Jesus, to love like Jesus will require change.

Third, if the church is going to change then the behavior, the practices of what we do will need to change. Churches that are not making disciples typically have an inward focus rather than the outward focus that God desires. Most of the programming in these churches is about and for the people already in the church. Few resources like time and money and service are invested outside the church in the community. And the programming these churches do have is not resulting in disciples who make disciples.

We attend “worship” each weekend and hear the Word. But the Bible tells us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers. (James 1:22). Jesus told us that the wise person is the person who hears the words of Jesus and puts them into practice. (Matthew 7:24). Jesus told us, “go and make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). To obey Jesus, to live like Jesus will require change.

1 John 2:6 tells us, “whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” To walk as Jesus walked requires a changed mind, a change heart, and changed behavior. The result is a disciple who makes disciples teaching those he reaches to obey Jesus and thus continuing the disciple making process.

To change a church without blowing it up requires changing the minds, hearts and behavior of those in leadership and those sitting in the chairs each weekend. Each change we make in the church requires going through this same process. Some changes will come quickly. Others will take some time depending on the entrenchment of those in leadership. But the process is the same.

Five words describe the steps each person will take as they begin to think and act differently.

UNAWARENESS. People begin the process unaware of the changes that need to happen.

The mistake leaders make here is assuming people know what needs to happen. Thus we can berate and belittle people and cause great harm to those God loves. This is not the way of God. Unless we as leaders are models for what we are tying to change the church into, we have no right to blast others. The Bible tells us to gently instruct others and it is God who brings people along. (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

AWARENESS. People reach an awareness level of what changes need to be made when they understand what the change is, why the change is necessary, how the changes will be made, who are the key endorsers of this change, what will be different when the change is completed and the hoped for results.

The mistake leaders make here is assuming that when people reach this level of understanding they are ready to implement. So we push forward only to be surprised when resistance builds.

This is the danger point for blowing up the church. Leaders need to realize that at this level we have only touched the mind. People may be thinking differently, but their hearts are not fully with us yet. And until that happens, change is futile.

EMBRACING. When the people’s hearts change they have embraced the change the leaders are tying to accomplish. Attitudes shift from resistance to endorsement. The people are with you. They are ready to go to work. It can be an exciting time.

The mistake leaders make here is assuming the people know how to make the change happen. They don’t unless they are equipped. Excitement does not equal effective practice. So leaders can push forward only to frustrate and discourage the people because they don’t know what is expected and they may not understand the tools or the resources available to help them on this journey of change.

It is at this point you may not have a “blowup.” Rather you may experience a slow drain as people realize they don’t have what it takes to make the change. This is unfortunate as God is ready and able to help them on the journey, but it is the leaders that must help people realize this and sense the power of the Holy Spirit available to them. God is our enabler, so we must point people to Him to make the next step.

IMPLEMENTATION. With God as our helper, we begin to put into practice the principles that lead to becoming a disciple making environment. This is where the heart and skills of the leaders come into play. People learn and are equipped through modeling, teaching, coaching and mentoring. This was the way of Jesus and it must be the way of the leaders. Leaders point the way, take that way themselves and show others how to navigate the journey.

We also need to be aware of the blockages and “potholes” we may encounter on this journey of change. We are in a war with Satan and our enemy will do everything possible to stop this journey.

Leaders make two mistakes here. One is assuming we will not encounter difficulty. So when it comes we can become discouraged and wonder where is God in all this. God is there, but He never said the road would be smooth. God promised He would be with us and He would get us through the journey. But there will be bumps along the way.

The second mistake leaders can make here is assuming results will come quickly. When they don’t people can become discouraged and quit prematurely. As leaders we need to realize it is God who is responsible for results. Our role is to move in the right direction and put into practice “obeying” Jesus. This step is the equivalent of the behavior or lifestyle change of a disciple so we can walk as Jesus walked. The journey is not over; we are simply on the road.

RESULTS. With life transformation, our minds, hearts and practices patterned after Jesus, God shows up and the change we envisioned is now a part of our church and our lives. God has always been there through this entire process, but now we see the fruits of the direction He has been leading us towards.

The mistake leaders make here is assuming we have now arrived. We will never be perfect until God calls us home. Our church will never be perfect–unless we all leave it! So we ask God what is the next step we need to take. And we begin anew going through the change process. The end of one change is the beginning of the next. To not change is to die. So we strive forward, with God’s help until that day God says, “it is finished.”

Unawareness. Awareness. Embracing. Implementation. Results. These are the steps we take to make change happen. They represent the mind, heart and behavioral transformation that is necessary to see the change God wants us to make.

Today’s Missional Challenge

Don’t assume people want to change or know how to change. Discover the process of change that is necessary to move your church forward.