I was on Facebook this morning and saw  link about Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the current turmoil and the conflict they are going through.  The link lead me to John H. Armstrong’s blog.  I was reading his thoughts on what has been unfolding at Coral Ridge I couldn’t help but become frustrated and even saddened by what is going on.  They have recently (March of 2009) hired a new pastor who had promised changes throughout the search/ interview process.  Once he was hired and began to make these changes a small faction of the older people protested claiming that,

“God bless the young people that he’s brought over, but you’ve got to understand they’ve been meeting in a cafeteria or the high school.  They are now in a multi-million dollar edifice, and they didn’t have to work for it…This man doesn’t have the experience or maturity to lead.”

That’s a pretty bold statement and the mindset flies directly in the face of Christ as far as how we are supposed to act towards leaders as believers.  The longer I am in the ministry the more I find this mindset – yes even in Baptist churches.  Don’t get me wrong – I think there is a lot of honoring that needs to happen with those who have come before us and the things they have done – but we should never bow down and worship them.

I think these people felt threatened on some level or maybe even disrespected –  I can respectfully understand both positions the thing I can’t understand is the mindset of,

“but you’ve got to understand they’ve been meeting in a cafeteria or the high school…They are now in a multi-million dollar edifice, and they didn’t have to work for it…”

So wait a minute.  This is like saying, “We were hear first so we get the say in everything!”  This goes against every leadership principle out there.  Aren’t we, as we get older, supposed to train up the younger people to BE leaders and in turn let them lead?  This means making decisions that the older people may not like – but are they more over personal preference or doctrine?  If we stop and think through it they are more over personal preference and not doctrine.  So how do we resolve those differences?

  • as a new leader/ pastor: I am still a novice in leadership so I say this thoughtfully – you shouldn’t go into a church and make changes right away.  I think there is a LOT of wisdom in going in and giving it some time (I gave it a year) before you start making changes that may upset people….especially big changes like a church merger.  Having been involved in leadership and helping to lead through a merger I know the ups and downs of a merger – not nearly as much as the senior pastor does – but I was able to watch and observe.  It’s a long process and it takes time for mending.  I do think that’s the one thing Tchividjian was in the wrong on.  Making some pretty big changes right away.  I do not know him or the intent of his hear and I am sure he had the best intentions in mind – this is just my 2 cents.
  • lead through them: sometimes being a leader isn’t fun but we are what we are called to be.  Once in a while we will make a decision that will not be popular but we have to stay away from ‘representative leadership’ (leading/ influencing leadership with the thoughts/ mindset/ wishes of a certain age/ stance in mind).  I think we have to weigh the item of the conflict and ask, “Is this personal preference or doctrinal?” even for us as we make the decision to make changes.   If it’s personal preference do we have good solid reasons for instituting change or are we just making change for change’s sake.  If there is some doctrinal error are we mature enough to recognize it and back down?
  • roughling feathers: is it worth it to rough up the feathers of a certain group?  Sometimes change is necessary and it’s worth going through a period of time where it just makes things uncomfortable.  As a leader you know that once the ‘storm’ is passed that the sunny skies are more than worth it.  Still we have to keep them in mind as we make changes.  So maybe the better question is, “How can we better prepare certain groups for upcoming changes they may or may not like and how can we help them transition smoothly?” You will never appease everyone.
  • moving away from identity: If changes are forcing a church to move away form it’s core identity – which should be God’s Word and chasing after Christ – then it’s not worth making the changes.  More than likely we are really talking about methodology here.  However in some cases it’s a shift away from the purity of God’s Word.  We always have to be willing to ask those tough questions though.

These 3 things may or may not be good advice on how to handle change but I think they could be effective.   Change is never easy – for anyone involved.  Change often requires to be mature and die to ourselves while recognizing those coming behind us may need things done differently than those who have gone before us.