The root word for “tyranny” is the Latin word tyrannia, from which we derive the word tyrant. A tyrant is someone who exercises absolute and often oppressive power over you and over which you have no control.
One force that affects the lives of ministers and the churches they serve, often times over which they have little control, is that things change. In this sense change is often a force or tyranny you cannot control.
Because the church exists in a dynamic environment change is inevitable, unavoidable, continuous and usually unpredictable. But there are things we can do to adjust and to minimize the negative impact of the tyranny of change on our churches.
To effectively navigate the tyranny of change, today’s church leader must become adept at making two types of change, adaptive changes and innovative changes.
Adaptive change involves altering or modifying the church’s ministries, programs, personnel and systems in reaction to the changes in the culture. Typically these are changes the church must make or face a slow death. Change in preferences, demographics, giving and attendance patterns put constant pressure on church leaders to change just to maintain the status quo.
An example is the broad acceptance of video screens. Once an innovative change, most churches are finding they must now offer some form of video screens in their worship centers just to stay relevant.
Typically we spend most of our time pursuing adaptive changes and thus never see the transformational changes we long for.
Innovative change, on the other hand, is proactive rather than reactive. This is when church leaders make changes that are not just merely accommodating cultural change being forced upon them. Rather, innovative change means taking something that’s already working well and improving it, or better yet, creating something totally new.
For example, electronic online giving was an unforeseen innovative change that both improved church business office efficiency and effectively increased the amount of giving and the number of givers.
Innovative changes are usually far more difficult, time consuming and often controversial but are also more likely to be transformational.
First, both adaptive and innovative changes are needed and should be welcomed in the church. The tyranny of change dictates that every church leader be responsible for finding adaptive changes to stay even in some areas and innovative changes in order to leap ahead in others.
But a problem occurs when we make adaptive changes when innovative changes are needed.
For example, declining churches hire a new preacher rather than trying to understand the cultural shifts around them and how that dictates new ways of being “the church.” When Sunday School or Small Groups participation declines we change curriculum rather than look at new channels and mediums for discipling believers.
Godly wisdom and spirit led discernment is required to determine whether a situation dictates adaptive or innovative change, but healthy churches can learn to make well informed adaptive and innovative changes by embracing the following practices:
Seek under the Spirit’s guidance to understand the cultural shifts going on around them and how the beliefs, behaviors and belonging characteristics of the millennial generation might require new ways of doing church
Continually challenge old assumptions and doing things the way we have always done them
Monitor what other churches are doing and the new ways and forms of doing church are immerging
Empower a think tank of the church’s most creative and forward thinkers to conduct Research and Development and dream new dreams for the church
Posted on April 21, 2015