The Awesome Rev. Jones (Navigating Change)
All churches think they want to grow but the reality is that they don’t want a “catch so great their nets begins to tear.” That is hard on everyone. As God has given Christ Church massive catches over the years, I have discovered four things that are as painful as they are true.
THE TRUTH ABOUT GROWTH
- Healthy Things Grow If you are not growing, you are not healthy.
- Growth Necessitates Change You can’t grow and stay like you are.
- Change Brings Discontinuity Change takes things away from us that are important to us and we don’t like that.
- Discontinuity is a Growth Opportunity In times of discontinuity you have three options: You can fight, you can quit or you can grow. It is only when we choose to grow that we choose health and we start the cycle all over.
I love to look at the life cycles of churches. There is almost always one or two fascinating upticks in the respective histories of almost all churches, immediately followed by a downturn of equal or greater size. When I ask churches about the uptick, they reply, “That was when Rev. Jones was here. He was awesome!” But when you drill down into it, Rev. Jones is significantly more awesome in the church’s collective memory than he was while he was there.
Here is the story line: Rev. Jones came in a down time for the church, brought some energy and the people rallied around his leadership. Then new people began to attend and before long, people were sitting in the wrong seats, parking in the wrong places and wanting to be on Boards and stuff. There were problems everywhere and potential solutions like going to two services or adding on felt worse than the problems. Feeling threatened and a bit exasperated, the old guard began to nit pack at Rev. Jones which somewhat disillusioned Rev. Jones, completely jaded Mrs. Rev. Jones and stressed all the new folks and more than a few of the old guard who decided Rev. Jones was the best they were ever going to get.
Rather than sit at the table and work it out in healthy ways, the old guard requested the Rev. Jones be moved, Rev. Jones asked to be moved to save his marriage, the new folks all quit and some of the old folks quit. What is fascinating is that there really wasn’t an evil person in the lot, just cross threaded people who didn’t know how to navigate the change a “good catch” necessitates in a healthy way. That very summer, Rev. Jones left for a new church and the old church was really worse off than when the good Reverend arrived. Rev. Jones is now the good old days which everyone has forgotten weren’t really so good at all. And all that remains is an historical uptick followed by a plunge.
A part of the reason we instituted the Navigating Change Conference at Christ Church was to help the Rev. Jones’, Mrs. Rev. Jones’ and churches served by them navigate change in healthy ways. We don’t believe this story has to be the prevailing narrative of the American Church.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois