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Change. Or End Up With A Subdivision.

My father-in-law was a remarkable man: a colonel in the Army in the same headquarters in England that General Eisenhower worked from during WWII.

It was there that Eisenhower planned Operation Overlord—the Normandy D-Day offensive. After the war, my father-in-law returned to Columbus Ohio and launched a career as an independent architect. And he was a dedicated Christian. He designed and built the church building for the church he helped plant in 1960 and became an elder. For a number of years the church attracted similar young families, but as time passed, the congregation aged and pastors came and went. After fifty years or so, it became more and more difficult for the church to embrace even minor changes, and the leadership culture slowly evolved into a heart-numbing state of sheer survival. Until the end. They could no longer maintain the building. Congregants had moved away or passed away, until only a few were left. Eventually, the church was closed, sold, and bulldozed over for yet another subdivision. And the handful of octogenarians left were deeply, deeply saddened. What's more, a lighthouse in the community was extinguished. Strategic church leaders must come to a place where they answer two philosophical (but extremely pragmatic) questions for their organizations: who are we and why are we here? They take their people through difficult times and changes to fulfill their purpose as a church. If these questions are not asked, they will either slowly fade away. Or… …they’ll keep plugging in the latest trendy program to try to make something happen. Be careful: one can’t take any particular program and plug it into their model without looking at the attachments. Great programs are attached to great values. It seems to me that the idea of adopting a model only works to a certain degree. Churches have personalities like human beings: to want to be just like someone else is disastrous—and God will break us in that process in order to create what He wants, which boils down to a healthy dependency on Him. That doesn’t mean that adopting a model is altogether wrong. In fact, it is actually part of the growth process for a church. Musicians learn to play by first emulating the artists they love. Budding guitarists will copy the licks and riffs their guitar hero makes until they eventually find their own voice. Or just as a child imitates its parents, as she approaches her teenage years, there is a reassessment and questioning of authority, models, and values. So it is with a church. What’s more, I think that every pastor/leader goes through a breaking process as well. There is a “nervous breakdown” point, an angry, frustrated place where one makes hard decisions concerning what they are for. The end result may be the original model, but it will be based on different values, I can assure you. As the old adage goes: until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change, nothing will change. Dave Workman | Elemental Churches


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