What kind of leader in the church can effectively promote and lead needed change? Aubrey Malphurs in his book, Pouring New Wine into Old Wineskins, suggests at least thirteen different traits of a change agent.
The kind of change about which I speak is not change for the sake of change. Some church leaders and pastors believe in the philosophy that every church needs to be changed, no matter what. I don’t agree. In my opinion leaders ought to make changes that are genuinely needed. What might those be? If the local church is failing in ways that Scripture defines, as illustrated for us in Revelation, chapters 1-3, or has problems similar to the twenty major issues that nearly ruined the ancient church in Corinth (read 1 and 2 Corinthians), then it’s time to change. If there is corporate sloth, pride, apathy, lack of love, lack of genuine spirituality, immorality, selfishness (ingrown), legalism or any other corporate sins then it is time to repent and exercise faith in becoming like Jesus Christ, as his body.
Without God’s clear directives from his Word, and without God, the Holy Spirit working within the church through change agents (godly leaders, godly men and women of influence, etc.), then change may happen – but it is doubtful it will be the kind of change that is truly needed and that is God honoring. Ultimately God is the true Change Agent; nevertheless, he uses various means and people to accomplish needed change.
So, here are the traits of a leader who can influence and bring about change, which Aubrey Malphurs highlights in his book. A leader:
1. A leader must be found with proper spiritual gifts, natural abilities and the right temperament to be a change agent.
2. A leader must seek God’s wisdom and will for a vision and plan, asking God if the vision and plan is right for the congregation he wants to change.
3. The leader must have a clear vision and plan for what he wants to do with the congregation he wants to change and be personally committed to the process of change.
4. The leader must communicate his plan to the proper groups within the congregation. The leader always goes to the key groups within the church before going to the congregation.
5. The leader must not accept initial rejection of the vision and plan as a final rejection. It takes time for others to accept the plan.
6. The leader lays low for a short while upon initial rejection but comes back to the plan several times if necessary, approaching it from several different angles.
7. The leader puts around him people who are sympathetic to the vision and plan. They may be an ad hoc committee or a loose knit group to whom he goes for consultation.
8. The leader must permit other leaders and lay people to interact with the vision and plan so everyone gains ownership of the change.
9. The leader will give adequate time for the vision and plan to sink into the heads and hearts of the lay people long after the essential leaders are on board with the plan.
10. The leader, before implementing the vision and plan, will have a season of prayer at every level of the church.
11. The leader, with support of the ruling board, will implement the plan with excitement and enthusiasm.
12. The leader will not get overly disturbed or discouraged if a few people never adopt the vision and plan. They will cause internal struggle, seek to remove the pastor, or leave the church.
13. The leader makes sure there is some plan set in place for evaluation of the ongoing plan to determine if it needs modification or scrapping.
D. Thomas Owsley