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Change: Obstacle or Opportunity?

January 14, 2012

I visit several blogs periodically (see the Blogroll to the right), and find much value in what I read. I have to say that as a young pastor trying to figure out what in the world I’m supposed to be doing as I shepherd a church in New England, I have found my friend and former colleague, Eric McKiddie’s blog, Pastoralized, to be one of the most consistently helpful. Eric is a scholar, pastor, and organizational wizard. He’s deeply committed to gospel ministry and the centrality of God’s Word, yet knows how to bring that to bear practically in the organizational details of a church or ministry.

Here’s an excerpt from his recent post on “What it Means to Be an Entrepreneurial Pastor” :

What entrepreneurship really is

The entrepreneurial attitude has inaccurately been equated with extroversion and riskiness.

Consultant and author, Peter Drucker, is regarded as tops on management and entrepreneurship. His books are a great help to the discerning pastor who can determine which principles overlap with pastoral ministry, and which belong solely in the business world. Drucker, in opposition to the pervasive mindset, says entrepreneurship has little to do with personality, and more to do with action:

“Entrepreneurship should be the least risky rather than the most risky course…Entrepreneurship is ‘risky’ mainly because so few of the so-called entrepreneurs know what they are doing. They lack the methodology. They violate well-known rules” (Innovation and Entrepreneurship, pages 28, 29).

What action, then, defines entrepreneurship?

“Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice…the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity” (viii, 28).

Do you want to be an entrepreneurial pastor? Do those three things. Search for change. Respond to it. Exploit it. For the spread of the gospel.

The entrepreneurial pastor is not necessarily an extroverted risk-taker. There is too much at stake to embrace an impulsive ministry model. Rather, the entrepreneurial pastor is someone who methodically hunts for opportunities to minister the gospel based on changes in his church, in his town, and in the world. Particularly, he sees changes as opportunities to be exploited for the gospel, not obstacles for the gospel.

You can read the whole post here.

McKiddie makes a simple yet provocative point: is change something we fear and avoid, or is it something we look for and leverage? Do we think of our church experience as something to be guarded and preserved, or as a team of humble servants eager to bring the never-changing gospel into our ever-changing world?

The reality is that unless one can make a case that the flow of God’s redemptive work among his people has all been leading up to our particular, twenty-first century, Western cultural embodiment of church (whether that’s comprised of a hand-bell choir and Sunday School or an electric guitar and monthly rotation at the soup kitchen), such that all that is left from now until the Lord’s return is to maintain the status quo, then we should expect and invite change. Gospel-shaped culture has not arrived with your church or mine.

We should of course clarify that what God desires of his people more than anything is faithfulness. And sadly, it’s not uncommon to find some who in the pursuit of effectiveness end up being less than faithful. But being faithful is more than being right; it’s being true to both biblical doctrine and the call to live it out and bear public witness to Christ, rather than bury our ‘talent’ in the ground of the Christian cultural status quo (cf. Matt. 25:14-30).

Now I’m no cultural iconoclast. The church I serve uses a blended service, and there are several important reasons why we will continue to do so (look for a forthcoming post on that topic). Traditional does not equal bad, and new does not equal good. But idol does equal bad, and too often our resistence to change is fueled not out of our passion for God but our passion for something other than God that has secretly and subtly taken his place in our hearts.

Change is scary because it’s unknown, and what’s unknown is hard to control. But this very dilemma betrays our pride.

God is in control, not us. Are we willing to trust him and step out in faith–not in directionless impulse or hollow faddishness, but with wisdom, conviction, and eagerness to see God use what little time we have on this earth for passing on more than our beloved cultural patterns, but the faith once for all delivered to the saints? To be sure, those two are not mutually exclusive; but neither are they intrinsically bound up. Let me put it another way: am I more interested in keeping things the way they are or in seeing lost and broken souls find the freedom of forgiveness and share in the glory of heaven? How we answer that question will not only affect our attitude toward change; it will tell us a lot about the God we serve–whether it’s the God of the Bible or something less.

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