Time To Change

Here’s a pretty convincing piece of research about the need for change in the Aussie church via Steve Taylor.

Steve (who titled his post ‘Landslide Victory For Fresh Expressions in Australian Churches’ writes:

Some 66% of church attenders agreed that the traditional established models of church life must change to better connect with the wider Australian community (only 11% disagree).

For an even larger majority, this was personal. 82% claimed that they would support the development of new initiatives in ministry and mission in their church (3% disagreed).

So why on earth would there be resistance?

My own reflection is that people would rather hang on to what little they have got rather than risk losing it. To try something new is to risk pissing off the faithful few who remain and that would be suicide. But to do nothing is to choose a slow and pointless death.

What a choice…

Seriously its a lame choice, but in the face of that, the vast majority still choose a slow painful death. Why?… My guess is because change is difficult, time consuming and painful. The status quo might be lame, but we know how to do it.

Its the ‘club’ mentality overriding the missionary heart. The path of least resistance wins out and the possibility of change evaporates with the desire to simply do what comes easiest. In a busy world its an easy default position. “It may not be effective, but we at least know how to do it!”


The research seems to say people want change, but I am actually not convinced. I think people think that they want change, but its usually change without risk, or change without any impact on the current state of play.

Low cost change.

Its a hedging of bets so that if the new initiatives don’t cut it we can always steer back to the tired (no spelling error)and tested expression that will see us thru to our graves even if our kids will find it bizarre and maybe even abhorent.

The research gives me hope, but I also know that people don’t like pain, risk and uncertainty… so it may be a much greater stretch than we would hope.

We can only hope.

9 thoughts on “Time To Change

  1. Or could it be that leaders lack the courage and the skills to lead people in the changes they are asking us to make?

    How much training is provided not just in theology but in HR skills and interpersonal dynamics? How good are our support systems for leaders undertaking change? How willing are leaders to, as in Luke 10, take risks and lead people in mission?


  2. We have the same problem in the USA. My hometown church finally closed its doors about three years ago and it was about a dozen years too late. No one in the congregation wanted to change, from the preacher to the pew. They were comfortable, even when it was clear that what they were doing wasn’t working. It was sad and it breaks my heart that it happened. So far, churches I’ve been involved with since then have been slightly more on top of things.

  3. Quite possibly Steve. I would suggest that those with courage sometimes lack finesse (a bit of the ‘apostolic’ gene) while those with the people skills sometimes lack the willingness to challenge things.

    I think we still train people (by and large) to ‘run churches’ and work within the familiar, and not a high enough value is placed on innovation.

    When we start to value spirit inspired innovation as much as spirit inspired preaching then we may have a more hopeful future – and we may see fewer leaders walk away in disgust/ despair

  4. A good reflection Hamo. I’ve seen this desire to see change, “as long as it doesn’t affect us in any way” first hand and agree that many people want change because it sounds exciting, but the practice of it is far too hard.

    Steve, there are leaders who want to lead change but often find it to hard or painful because of the strong resistance they come across due to what I’ve written above.

    Maybe I’m cynical but there is a strong institutional base for most Christians and its difficult to think outside of the box.

  5. Well I think the stats challenge your cynicism Gaz.

    They indicate that folk in Aussie churches want change and they want change in their own places.

    Change and conflict are inevitably linked. I’m not suggesting it is easy. At the very least the stats invite us to say to the alleged resisters – if 82% of folk in Aussie are saying yes, what makes us unique, why are we different, why is it so hard for us?



  6. Brilliant post there ‘Hamo’. I am a mid-to-late twenties male, Christian, yet for a long time I have viewed the institutional church as a “club” for women, children, and the elderly. A place of safety, a place of the proverbial “cookie-cutter”, a place of conformity, but not a place of energy, vibrance, and real grit.

    I definitely think there is far too much of an institutional base in churches (harking to what David Murrow calls the Velvet Veto – “Why Men Hate Going to Church”). Despite thinking Jesus is THE man, He seems devoid at church – unless you want comforting or sanctuary.

    If you have the time, please feel free to read a piece I wrote a couple of years back (http://thejmanforgod.blogspot.com/2008/10/most-interesting-question.html), and please – if you do read it – feel free to let me know what you think. I do hope I’m not a lone voice out there on this.

  7. I’m surprised that these stats equal ‘hope for change’ for people.

    To me, they indicate an ongoing desire to whinge about how things are, safe in the knowledge that if things change, it will be ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ or ‘not the way it should change’.

    The stats simply tell me that only 11% of people didn’t have a whinge when the survey was done.

    Cynical of large groups of typically conservative people embracing a change-mentality?

    You bet! 🙂

  8. A great initiative would be to preach the Gospel. It is often assumed by Pastors and thought to be just a once of thing that is useful for the conversion of a soul……but, we need to be reminded (personally) daily of our sinful nature, our need for repentance, the great saviour we have in Christ Jesus and forgiveness of sins exclusively through him. This is wonderful to hear from the pulpit week after week so (corporately) we receive Gods word and through refocussing on the cross we humbly and joyfully respond to do good works for our neighbors, and in turn, point them to Christ.

    The apostles preached the Good News and wow- what a response. But I guess it’s a little offensive these days and so 30-70A.D! I have little hope that churches re-modelling & re-tooling with new mission & vision statements and spiritual disciplines etc will bring new life. The people need to hear Gospel time and again. It is our comfort and hope….. this alone, through the spirit’s work will sustain and grow the church. I think this is the change we need.

  9. Hamo I agree. Change is not simply a head issue or a verbal assent. Change when it comes down to it is a heart issue. Not do we want change but are we prepared to sacrifice our comforts, traditions, etc in order to bring about not simply change for changes sake but change in order to reach those who will not be reached by traditional church. Otherwise Ryan is right it is just a group of whingers.

    Ivan just preach the gospel is a good but simplistic comment. It is exactly as I reflect on the gospel that causes me to be unhappy with a status quo. A gospel of the one who did not consider his own comforts/traditions/things he enjoyed something to hold onto but gave himself up for us – taking on the very nature of a servant -suffering death on a cross. So that we may live! As I reflect on that gospel it compells me to ask the question – what would it take to reach those who traditional church structures will not reach? And what could I give up/sacrifice/change in my life and the life of my community in order to serve this people with and through the gospel.

    Agree with Hamo again – we have to stop training people to run churches but to be gospel innovators, risk takers, missionaries.

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