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Tackling Opposition to Change (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
October 19, 2021 4:00 am

Tackling Opposition to Change (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 19, 2021 4:00 am

Change can be difficult—but sometimes it’s necessary. So how can church leaders overcome opposition to implement the right changes? Find out how to effectively handle resistance with wisdom, purpose, and kindness, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Music Playing By and large, churches are not good at making changes and since those who are most opposed to them are often the most vociferous in their responses, many times the leadership settles for a happy life, at least potentially so, and for immediate gratification rather than for the delayed gratification that comes from tackling the opposition to change and pushing through to the eventuality that we believe is right for us. If there are steps to implementing change and overcoming opposition to change, we need to identify what they are and I want just to run through a few of these. Again, I'm stating in many cases the obvious.

I make no apology for it. It is imperative that we think through exactly what it is that we would like to change or we believe needs to be changed. Secondly, that we need to know our people and we need to develop trust relationships with our people.

That can only be achieved over time. Also, thirdly, that we recognize that in leadership we need to keep an adequate amount of change in our pockets, as it were. That we do need in some measure as leaders to be agents for change. I mean, we should be changing stuff, don't you think?

I mean, if it always remains the exact same, something is wrong. Some of us are not as good as that at others and that's why it's helpful to think through some of the implications. We need, fourthly, to identify the influencers, the people in our congregations and in our leadership who, in turn, are able to influence others and we need to communicate our vision to them in order that they might be on board to communicate the vision to others. So, for example, it is imperative that in sharing vision that we include our leadership so that they may temper unbridled enthusiasm, that they may give clarity to unframed thinking, and that they may also have time to come on board with what we're doing.

I don't even know if this illustration fits, but it just comes to mind. When I was in this church in Scotland on my own, I had occasion to make contact with a well-known minister here in the United States. It came about as a result of a family member worshipping in his church. And this individual sent to me, via my sister, some information about the church in which he was serving in the States. And in writing to thank him, I invited him to complete his education and to come to Scotland, to complete his education by coming to Scotland. He wrote back and said that he would do so if I organized a pastors conference.

I wasn't in a position to do that, and so I just filed the letter. Then one evening, I came home, and my wife told me that this chap had been on the phone from the West Coast of the United States, and that he was going to call again at midnight our time, which was, I guess, four o'clock in the afternoon Los Angeles time. And at four in the afternoon, this gentleman phoned up and introduced himself to me on the phone and said, were you serious about that invitation that you extended? Oh, yes, I said I was. Well, he said, I would like to come. I said, you would? He said, yes. And he told me when there were some other circumstances that were pushing him in this direction.

And so right there and then I said, fine. I said, come. And I invited him to come, I think it was for 10 days. And I told him that he could preach in the church, that we would do evening meetings, we would involve ourselves in various pursuits, and I would take him and show him every castle in Scotland that we had time to see. So I got to the Wednesday evening meeting and I said, I've got some great news for you. And as I began to bubble over with enthusiasm about the prospect, I was met by just the deadness and the darkness of night in terms of their reaction. And in the course of all of my enthusiasm, I had explained that Americans tended to be fairly well served, and therefore it would really be out of keeping for us simply to put them in the homes of one of our people. After all, that most of them didn't have a shower and they wouldn't like it.

And so I said, I've just gone ahead and made reservations for two rooms in the local hotel, which is down on the River Clyde. Well, at that point, a couple of them came totally unglued and announced the fact that they thought that this was not a great plan. Well, I soldiered on, and at one point, in announcing how much it was going to cost for this accommodation, in great frustration over the prolonged agony of, you know, $250 or whatever it was, I said to the group of assembled gentry, I said, listen, if it's that big of a problem, I'll pay for the hotel myself, which was an act of terrific bravado, because I didn't have enough money hardly to buy myself a Coke, let alone pay for the elder and his wife and the minister and his wife to live for a week in this hotel. And at that point, one gentleman jumped up out of his seat and he said, out of order in the chair, out of order in the chair.

I didn't know what that meant, but I figured it was bad. And it was. It meant that I had violated my leadership responsibilities by making such a snide comment. And he felt that I should be removed from the position of chairmanship, which by that point would have been an act of great mercy for me, apart from them. Well, I won't bore you with all the details, but I soldiered on. I had nowhere else to go.

I couldn't phone the guy up and tell him I was full of hot air. And so he came and he ministered very effectively. And we visited the castles and our people had a fantastic time.

Even some of these men who were determined that they weren't going to have a good time, even seemed to be having a nice time. We'd put him in this hotel. It was run by a pagan.

I mean, he was a self-confessed pagan. I had got to know him a little bit because I conducted wedding receptions in his hotel and he'd been intrigued by me and had obviously begun to pay attention to what was going on. And so he had been interested in having this foursome from America stay in the hotel. And so they came and they left and the church treasurer paid the bill. And Les, who was the owner of the hotel, sent me a letter and enclosed in the letter was the check that had been sent from our treasurer to him. And it was torn in half. And he said, it has been a great privilege to have these people in my hotel.

And I would rather not take the money if that's okay. And so then I had the opportunity to go back into Mr. Out of Order in the chair. And I took the two halves of the check and I stuck one half up one nostril. No, I did not. I wanted to, but I didn't. Now, I learned a lesson from that, and that is that in influencing people for the good of myself, that's manipulation. In influencing people for the good of the kingdom, that's motivation. And they misunderstood. I probably made it easy for them to do so, but I didn't have any personal agenda in it at all. I was simply excited at the prospect of our congregation experiencing the benefits of this ministry.

And I failed to influence the influencers, and I almost foundered on the rocks. Along with that, and the fifth thing, and I'll just hasten to the end, the fifth thing is it's obviously important to show people how the change is going to benefit the organization, benefit whatever it is, the youth ministry, our church, our music program, whatever it is. And in this way, to show them how it will help to achieve the overarching vision and goals that we have established.

That, incidentally, is why it is so imperative that a church has an overarching vision and clearly delineated goals. Because it then allows us a point of reference to determine whether we are making it or missing it. You know, if you hit balls on a driving range, and all you've got simply is three-and-a-half acres of grass in front of you, you can convince yourself that you're actually striking this ball with, you know, with tremendous power and rhythm and accuracy. The one way to determine whether you are or not, of course, is to have someone go out about 150 or 200 yards and stick a flag in the ground. Once you stick the flag in the ground, then you determine whether you're hitting it with a draw, with a fade, whether you're hitting it at all.

That's why often we don't like the flags, because we'd rather live with the illusions. Churches have to have flags. We have to earth the great principles of the New Testament in identifiable, stated objectives. You know, Jay Adams, in one of his little books on preaching, says that our wives ought to be able to nudge us, remember this, about three o'clock on a Sunday morning, wake us and say, what are you preaching on in the morning?

And we have to be able to answer in a sentence and fall back to sleep. He said, if we can't answer in a sentence, it's because we don't know what we are preaching on the following morning. Somebody ought to be able to nudge us and say, okay, tell me about your church, about your ministry. What are you doing?

Where are you moving? We ought to be able to answer. And not simply, well, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, and therefore we would like to try. You know, the answer can't be the Westminster Confession of Faith, you know, subsection 6. That's not a good enough answer. You go in the bagel shop, they know the answer. They have it written on the wall when you walk in.

And this is a paraphrase, but it essentially says, our plan is to stuff you full of bagels. Right? So it's not a problem. I mean, nobody's in any doubt. We know what they're trying to do. And they do too. And that's why they wear the hats. Because they wear the hat, because they're part of the team and the team is heading for here and they wrote it on the wall and they wrote it inside of them and they're moving it towards us.

Was it Hendricks? Most churches think they're doing fine because they don't know what they're doing. What are we doing? Okay, I'm going to wrap this up now because they're getting a little silly. Also then, sixthly, change needs to take place in increments with a long-term schedule in mind. We need to build the procedures for change. We need to take time to lay the groundwork. We need to give time for a response. We need to listen more than we talk. We need to observe probably more than we begin to implement.

They're all elementary things. You guys who are in business here today are sitting going, oh, I wish he would shut up. Because you're over your heads in this. Well, you want to tell me why you can't think the same way in church life? Because the church is not a business.

No, we understand that. But would you not agree that the principles of the book of Nehemiah would translate very effectively into the business structures of some of the Fortune 500 companies in America and frankly have done? People have built business models right out of the book of Nehemiah because they understand the functionality of it. So it's not enough for us to say, well, we're not a business. Therefore, we will endorse and embrace chaos. The answer is we are not a business. We understand that. We are a church. Therefore, we are framed by biblical principles and parameters, but we don't take our brains out when we're thinking about how we're going to reach a city for Jesus Christ. And the lay guys have got to step up. It's not right that you can spend, if any of you are here, can be involved in strategic plans in Fortune 500 companies where you're involved in the administration level and you're making strategic involvements that cost 150 and $200 million in change in your organization. And then you will come into meetings in a church and be a total pain in the neck about something that is involving 8,000 or $10,000. Because it's double think.

You've got your own two cities going. We overestimate what we can do in a year, and we underestimate what we can do in five years. That's why the change has to be incremental. Seventhly, we need to communicate clearly and often. Eighthly, we need to create a healthy discontent for the status quo. I'm in favor of taking every organization of the church, every fragment of the church, and putting it under review, at least on an annual basis. That part of the responsibility of eldership in the church should be to put the whole operation under review, not in a threatening way, not in a tyrannical way at all, in a way that is prayerful and is encouraging to the people who are in leadership in those responsibilities, so that they know, for example, in the month of February, they will come in, and they will share about the ministry, the encouragements that are there, the discouragements, the challenges, and so on. They will ask the elders council on certain things. The elders will have an opportunity to ask questions, and they will pray together. If there is need for change in strategy, then we will make note of it, and we will consider it. If the review is such that it simply reinforces the well-being of what's going on, then we will rejoice in that, and we will leave things exactly the way they are.

But the one thing we mustn't do is simply assume that all is well on the Western front, because no one is shouting or nothing is squeaking. You can think of, I mean, I remember in Scotland, there were two old ladies who had had a children's evangelism project, and it went from their home. And these ladies were just, the hand of God was on them. I don't know what happened to them with kids. God just made them special with children.

And they saw lots of boys and girls in their community come to faith in Jesus Christ. Well, after they were gone, somebody was still running the operation out of the front room. Nobody was coming, because they were no good.

They didn't have the heart, they didn't have the gift, and it wasn't working. Well, go in and shut it down. Well, you can't do that. Why?

Exactly. I was doing brass rubbings in a church in England. You know the brass rubbings? On the graves. They lay brasses down over graves. You know, Lord, Smythe, and a little sort of brass. You should know about it, because I sold a number of these rubbings to an interior design store in Ardmore. Really nice shop.

It was called O'Neill and Bishop. And they bought a number of my brass rubbings, and they're hanging in some very nice homes in greater Philadelphia. They charged exorbitant prices for these things. I could not believe it when I saw my paltry renderings hanging in the hallways of this store. I mean, it was a buzz.

Because I would rub these as a student so that I could get enough money to come and chase down this girl that I really liked, who's at home with my children right now. And I was rubbing brasses in Ely in Cambridgeshire, and the church warden came. It was a Saturday morning, and he said, I'm going to have you leave.

The children's service begins in about 20 minutes. So I said, that's not a problem. Be glad to have a break. I'll go get a coffee. So I went out, and I went across the road from the church, and I went in a little place, a cafe, and I got myself a coffee.

And where I was sitting, I could see out the window. And it never occurred to me at first, but I'd been there probably 20 minutes, and it suddenly dawned on me, I wonder where everybody's coming from because I don't see anybody going into the children's service. And I stayed there for a while, and I thought, I don't think anybody went into the children's service. Maybe there wasn't a children's service.

Maybe it was canceled. And so, intrigued, I went across the road, back up through the gravestones, opened the door at the back, and looked in. And as I went into the vestibule before I could see, I could hear the voice.

I said, oh, well, there is a service. And I went in. There wasn't a soul in there. There was a Labrador dog that belonged to the vicar.

And I'm making this up. All the boys and girls in the town were watching TV, playing sports, attending school events, shopping with their mothers. There had been a time, presumably, when 11 o'clock on a Saturday morning was a great time for a kid's service, but it hadn't been any time in the last 25 years. That was for sure.

And even the Labrador was asleep. Now, you got to understand the guy's worldview, sacramentalism, priestly function. Doesn't matter if you're there or not. Eleven o'clock, we do the children's service.

Do the children's service. Say, well, we don't go to that extreme. I'm sure we don't. But if half of us analyzed a significant chunk of what we're doing, you find a number of Labrador dogs kicking around. And stuff that was previously gifted, staffed on the basis of prior gifting, for which there is no present configuration of gifting to do the same thing, is being propped up by three short legs and a broken leg, instead of leadership having the courage to go in and reconfigure the thing and fix it. And then the widows start to argue with one another, because things aren't going the way they should go. Therefore, you need the apostles' wisdom to say, you know, we're going to have to do something strategic about this. We'll get some guys that are full of the Holy Spirit, and we'll put them in charge, and we will give ourselves to prayer in the ministry of the Word. Last thing, I've used my last golfing illustration, probably you say, I've got a problem.

Yes, I do. But timing is everything, you know. Timing is everything. You see, you look at those guys from behind, swing at a golf ball. It looks as though the golf ball couldn't go anywhere. Because of the way they drop their hands into the slot, and it's only here that all of that comes. But from behind, you never see that.

Some of us, you see, when we play golf, we put the up here. If you do that, and I'm an expert at it, you know you're not very good. Because when you cast at the top, you lost the angle, you lost all the potential for power. And the only thing you can do is kind of scoop back to the ball, and it goes into one of those horrible fades. And you look at guys, and you say, well, how do they make it go from right to left like that all the time? It's a number of things, but timing is crucial.

And they don't release the angle until the time is right. Well, the wrong idea at the wrong time is a disaster. The wrong idea at the right time is a mistake. The right idea at the wrong time is unacceptable.

And the right idea at the right time creates the potential for success. You're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg with the conclusion of a message called, Tackling Opposition To Change. Our book recommendation today is something we think you'll want to request. It's a book titled, Faithful Leaders and the Things That Matter Most.

And Alistair is here today to tell us about it. You know, Bob, when Paul wrote to Titus and to Timothy, he urged them to put the right leaders in place. And he did this because he recognized that the church's spiritual progress was dependent in large measure upon the progress that the spiritual leaders themselves were making. And all these years later is no different today. And that's why Rico in his book, Faithful Leaders, has done us all a tremendous service because he's helping us put our finger on the pulse of what spiritual leadership must mean in the local church. He's reminding us that however gifted or able a person might be, it's ultimately about faithfulness and holiness. And so consequently, anybody serving in any role of church leadership is going to be greatly helped by Faithful Leaders. And I leave it to you, Bob, to let them know how they can get a copy. You can request your copy of the book, Faithful Leaders, when you donate to Truth for Life today at truthforlife.org slash donate, or you're welcome to give us a call.

Our number is 888-588-7884. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for listening. When you go to church, do you expect to be entertained by talented musicians and gifted speakers? Or do you expect to hear from God? There's a key element that's necessary for God's people to worship expectantly and in unity. We'll find out what that is tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-07 08:43:55 / 2023-08-07 08:52:45 / 9

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