A lot of what I have learnt over the years about change management has been gleaned from what I would describe as “secular” material, for want of a better term. I have no problem with this but, as a Christian leader, I also ask myself whether there are any distinctives that my faith would bring to this subject.
Given that most of us are not committed to change for change’s sake, we’ve got to reflect on why we are called to change and secondly what we are called to change to.
A lot of people, it seems, need to have it spelt out why they need to change. First, as individual followers of Christ, we are called to become more like him. I don’t know about you, but I’m still a work in progress. I am changed, but I am still changing! Dallas Willard says that the Kingdom of God is where the life of Christ is being lived out through another human life. This has an impact on our Church life. As we seek to embody Christ, I sense we still have a long way to go.
But God’s programme for change in the world is about more than the Church. In fact, Jesus didn’t talk very much about “church”; he seemed far more preoccupied by the concept of the “Kingdom of God” (or “heaven” according to Matthew’s Gospel) and it’s realisation on earth. When he talks about it, often using parables, its central dynamic is that of growth: seeds, yeast, vines, talents. We can’t ignore this. It’s part of the DNA of the Kingdom.
Second, we’ve got to discern what we are called to change to. Well part of the answer is implicit in our call to become more like Christ and to participate in the growth of the Kingdom. But what that looks like will depend on things like your context, your history and your aspirations. Within that, there are lots of good ideas. But leadership is often undermined by going for a good idea at a bad time. To lead for change, you’ve got to discern the right time and turn a good idea into a God idea.
The way to gauge that “right” time (some might call it a kairos moment) is the outcome of prayerful discernment. Prayerful discernment occurs when you place your plans with others before God. It’s not necessarily easy, but its critical to the change process.