Category Archives: Change

People in Church Fight Change (for a reason)

People in our churches fight change because they face it everywhere else—in their families, their careers, their communities, even their bodies, but they don’t want it to happen in their churches!  They want one place in their lives that doesn’t change, and that place is the church.  They seem determined to die and take their church with them, and some of them will succeed.  But people make a bad choice when they select a church as their bastion of consistency, because God is the One who decides what the church is about and God is about change.  What greater change could there be than to turn us from hell to heaven and deliver us from death to life?  He takes us from self-centeredness to self-sacrifice, from decay to glory.  All of life is growth in grace, a constantly growing change.  God has called the church to be the most significant change agent in the world, so as our culture changes we must change, while, like God, we remain unchanging in our essence.

Bill Lawrence in Effective Pastoring; p. 199


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Filed under Book Review and Excerpts on the Church, Change

A Self-Check for Personal Growth


Here is a check-list to see how you are doing when it comes to personal growth:


1. Would I consider myself  faithful, available, spiritual and teachable? Why or why not?

2.  I would say that I am growing in the following areas of my life:

_____      Spiritual

_____      Physical health

_____      Mental

_____      Social relationships

_____      Life skills

_____      In my area of work or expertise


3.   I know that I am growing in this or these areas because:


4.   True or false:  I would say that my life is characterized by intentional growth in most or all areas of my life.


5.   If I am not intentionally growing, then I am dying on the proverbial vine.  What is keeping me from growing?  What is hindering me?


6. What does 2 Peter 1:3-11 say about where I am in life right now?


7.  Which, if any, of the characteristics in Paul B. Thornton in Be the Leader-Make the Difference do I have?

_____       Strong desire to improve

_____       A commitment to candid self-assessment

_____       A strong curiosity

_____       An ability to learn from both success and failure

_____       Non-defensive response to negative feedback

_____       A willingness to experiment and try new approaches or new things


8.  True or false:  I am proactive about growing in

_____        Character of Christ-likeness (see 1 Timothy and Titus; and take the Godly Man’s self-exam)

_____       Discipline and self-control

_____       Emotionally

_____       Love

_____      Attitudes :

_____      Becoming more courageous as opposed to more fearful

_____      Passion as opposed to apathy

_____      Hope as opposed to negativity

_____      Confidence as opposed to doubt

_____      Humility as opposed to pride


9.   True or false:  I am proactive in learning more and more about many and important things in life.


10.  True or false:  I am becoming more and more competent in the various areas of my life.  Write down what area(s) and how.


11.    I am growing in my spiritual life (write down how in the following ways):



Enjoying God

Fellowship with God


12. I am growing in knowledge in the following areas:

_____     God

_____     God’s Word (study, understanding, memorization)

_____     Of myself (who I am)

_____     Of my calling or area of labor

_____     As a husband/wife

_____     As a father/mother

_____     Other


13.   I am becoming more and more competent

_____    In life skills (wisdom)

_____    In my talents and spiritual gifts

_____    In communication skills

_____    In my field of labor (professionally)

_____    As a husband/wife

_____    As a father/wife

_____    As a disciple of Jesus

_____    As a loving servant of others in my church

_____     As a loving servant to others outside of church relationships


14.   My written plan to grow is:

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A Suggested Plan for Personal Growth

You might have a desire to grow personally, but you may not get very far if you do not put together a plan for growth.  Here’s a suggested plan, which might encourage you to develop one of your own:


1. Make a commitment to personal growth.

2. Develop a specific and written plan for growth. Then prioritize.

a.  John C. Maxwell’s Your Road Map for Success is one helpful tool.

b. Growth will come easier and more successfully if you focus and build primarily upon your positive strengths first.  Then address areas in which you are deficient and in need of change and growth. Choose one significant item in each area with which to begin. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

c.  Make a written plan for your:

Spiritual life

Character development



d.  Prioritize

e.  Find and use resources that will help

(1)  A mentor or fellow believer(s) – true success always includes others, and with growth it includes spending time with other growing people and investing your life in others to help them grow.

(2) Books, CDs, DVDs, etc.

(3)   Magazines, e-zines, journals

3. Establish habits of successful growth.

Nobody will ever master every area of his or her life. However, with God, who works in you both to will and to do of His good plan, you can see significant and ongoing growth in each area. The mastery will be in the skill and process, not so much in the perfect completion.

4. Make the time for personal growth, or life will take your time from you.

5. Create a climate for growth: plan to do each of the following at least once a day for the next month

(See John C. Maxwell; Your Road Map for Success; p. 114).

a. Affirm someone else for doing something new that displayed a desire for growth.

b. Try something you’ve never done so that you’re taken out of your comfort zone.

c.  Think about a benefit that your current growth plan may give you in the future.

d.  Find ways to reward and encourage yourself in the areas you are growing.

6. Develop relationships with growing people. True success always includes others. Build relationships for growth in the following ways:

a.     Find a mentor. Name the person you know who is growing and who has the most expertise in the area where you’d most like to grow. Your goal is to develop a win-win relationship with that person.

b.     Spend time with growing people.

c.     Pick someone else to mentor. Select a person to help you grow.


Note: a great habit to develop is whenever you meet with someone with whom you have a mentoring relationship, always brings something of value to give: a book, tape, article, something you’ve learned, or anything encouraging or instructive.

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How To Grow a Minister

…or more aptly, How a Minister Can Change through Growth.

When I was a young soldier stationed in Okinawa, one of the missionaries at the Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Center was a short, middle-aged, energetic, robust and very disciplined man. He was a good mentor with respect to pushing us young military types to be deliberate about our lives. There was no need for him to be concerned about our physical health since the different branches of service in which we served saw to that. His focus was upon our mental and spiritual lives. So he was always challenging us to read good books, to study the Bible, to memorize scripture, to pray and do various other disciplines.  He wanted us to change our old ways and grow up in the way of Christ.  The downside was that he tended to be legalistic about it. Nevertheless, it was good for us. Since then, those habits he helped ingrain in me left a lasting impression. For example, from those days I have become a voracious reader, something I never was until about that time.

Years later, my wife and I got involved in a networking business. It was through the leadership with whom we interacted that challenged us to continue to stretch ourselves and grow, but to do so in all areas of our lives. Because of those influences, we have been rather intentional about learning, growing and changing.  Some years were more rigorous that others; some years we were forced into growth and change because of the severe trials we encountered; some years were not as hard.

Thinking back over the years we found that men and women who were considered successful in their fields were so because they worked hard at stretching their own hearts, minds, and lives. I know there are individuals who just “happened” to fall into financial success or success in other ways due to good circumstances; but for the most part successful people are those who work hard, discipline themselves, push their own limits and purposefully set their sights high and pursued growth and change.

At the same time, there are those who arrive at their comfortable limits and choose to coast in life. The man who followed after our disciplined missionary friend in Okinawa was such a man.  He was a “nice” guy, but about as opposite to his predecessor as one could be.  And it had a terrible effect on the ministry and the lives of the military men and women who were at the servicemen’s center.

A minister is to grow. He is to be challenged, tried, disciplined and forged into Christ’s man. The apostle Paul makes clear that the spiritual leader who works as an undershepherd to Christ, must be disciplined (Titus 1:8) unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8). We are to press on to the finish line of the call in Christ (Philippians 3:12-14), seeking to win the race set before us (1 Corinthians 9:24), while running with steady endurance (Hebrews 12:1).  As ministers, we are to follow Paul’s example and discipline our bodies (1 Corinthians 9:27) into submitting to God’s holy will and way so that in the end we can say with him that we have “fought the good fight, and finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

This being the case, let me propose some general, yet important aspects of a minister’s life which should grow (for example, see Romans 15:14). These questions are designed to provoke you to think and act:

Am I growing spiritually?

1.   Am I growing in my prayer life?

Do I pray regularly?

Do my prayers reflect biblical prayers or are they merely a shopping list for God?

What things am I praying for my life?

Am I praying for others?

Do I pray with others (such as at prayer meetings)?

Am I praying with and for my family?

2.      Am I growing in worship?

Do I seek to glorify God in all things every day?

Do I have regular, personal times of worship with God?

Am I committed to regular morning worship?

Do I understand, believe, and act upon the biblical teaching that the Lord’s Day is really God’s Day that was set aside to be spent delighting in Him?

3.      Enjoyment and fellowship with God

Is God the savior and lord of my life?

Am I a biblical disciple of Jesus Christ or merely someone who is a formal Christian?

Is God at the center of my thoughts, motives and actions?

Do I enjoy Him? Do I delight in the Lord or do I find my happiness in other things?

Am I growing in Christ-like character?

One who is growing and maturing in Christ-like character is a person of “engraved distinctive quality” who remains steadfast in moral excellence.  This minister lives a  praiseworthy life. He is a person of special quality in whom others willingly place their trust. The godly minister grows in:

1.      Discipline and self-control

2.      Emotionally

3.      Love

4.      Attitudes, such as

(1) Courage as opposed to fear

(2)  Passion as opposed to apathy

(3)   Hope, in contrast with negativity

(4) Confidence compared with doubt

(5) Humility against pride

Am I growing in my comprehension?

This has to do with what God wants you to learn and know about him, about yourself, about his creation, and much more. He wants you to grasp his knowledge in order to think his thoughts about all of life and therefore live a life of wisdom and love. To know in this way is to seize and grasp things mentally, and perceive things morally. This requires disciplined study for the gaining of truth and knowledge, and the understanding of the nature, significance and meaning of things; understanding cause and effect, etc.  Even more, the Bible calls us to grow  in grace and truth with regard to the things of:

1.   God

2.   Myself

3.    My area of labor or calling

4.   General knowledge

Be a continual learner!

Philip B. Crosby says “There is a theory of human behavior that says people subconsciously retard their own intellectual growth. They come to rely on clichés and habits. Once they reach the age of their own personal comfort with the world, they stop learning and their mind runs on idle for the rest of their days. They may progress organizationally, they may be ambitious and eager, and they may even work night and day. But they learn no more.”

Am I becoming more competent?

All believers are to become more competent in the sense of following, doing and performing God’s will. This is means you have the requisite ability to respond to and meet the challenges of life and ministry. To grow in competency is to be qualified and faithful in the issues and details of life. It means growth to be more effective in relationships, in communication skills, in godly and work performance, and to be able to lead and to get others to follow. Consider then,

1. Am I growing and becoming more skilled in life. This is as aspect of true wisdom (see Proverbs 4:7-8 and 19:18)

2. Am I growing in my talents?

3. Am I growing in the spiritual gifts God has given me?

4. Am I growing in my ability to have healthy relationships through love?

5. Am I growing and changing in my communication skills?

6. Am I advancing in life as a godly man, overall?

7. Am I becoming a more godly and Christ-like husband?

8. Am I becoming a more godly and Christ-like father?

9. Am I growing in the ministry to which I have been called?

Obviously there are many other areas about your life that you could consider or investigate. The bottom-line challenge is this:  are you disciplining your life toward godliness so as to become a more complete person in Christ, as well as a more complete minister of Christ?


D. Thomas Owsley

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The Change Agent (the leader who brings about change)

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

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Growth and Change is Critical for the Church Leader

A critical requirement of a Godly leader and minister is personal growth! And growth requires change.

What is growth?

First, growth is the development and progress toward maturity. It also means “expansion, advancement, improvement, and an increase in capacity, extent or prevalence.” Third, as Bill Vermeulen says, growth is “The capacity of each person created in God’s image to reach far beyond perceived levels of achievement.”

Growth is both necessary and required for a leader

In the Bible growth is presumed because it is the nature of God’s creation. What God creates grows. It is a characteristic of creation.  Growth is also a characteristic of God’s people (Job. 8:7; Psa. 1; 92:12; 2 Cor. 3:18). At least it is supposed to be. This is revealed more clearly when we consider all the terms and activities that pertain to the Christian: discipleship, nurture, change, learning, etc.

Death and decay, a result of sin, is abnormal. What is not growing is either dying or dead. The intentional lack of growth or maturity is repulsive to and rebuked by God (Isa. 28:9; 1 Cor. 3:1-2; 14:20; Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:12).

We have ample illustrations in the Scriptures of the men God used for his purposes, but after they grew in maturity:

  • The prophet Samuel grew “in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men” (1 Samuel 2:26).
  • The prophet John continued to grow “and became strong, increasing in wisdom and the grace of God was on him” (Luke 2:40).
  • Like Samuel, Jesus the perfect prophet and God-Man “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
  • The apostle Paul “kept on increasing in strength and baffling the Jews in Damascus, by proving that his Jesus is the messiah” (Acts 9:22).

In writing to young Pastor Timothy, the Apostle Paul admonished, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (ESV, 1 Timothy 4:7-8).  That kind of training is a rigorous exercise that demands change and a push toward maturity. If Christians are expected and called to cultivate (nurture and grow) the gifts God has given them (Matthew 25:20; 1 Timothy 4:7, 14; 2 Timothy 1:6), how much more the Christian leader?

If you are a leader in the local church, especially an elder or pastor, here’s a question for you: Are you growing or are you withering?

Growth for maturity

God is concerned with the growth of the whole person!  He calls believers, and especially leaders in his church to grow in life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-11).  We are admonished to leave the elementary teaching about the Christ, and to “press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (NASB, Hebrews 6:1).

We all begin our spiritual life as infants in Christ.  But one of the evidences of true, spiritual vitality is a desire for God’s Word. This is a desire that craves the Word like infants crave milk (1 Peter 2:2).  As we satisfy those spiritual cravings with God’s milk we mature to the point where we want more substantial food. This shows we are growing with respect to salvation.

Deacons, elders, pastors and other leaders should be growing, just like God’s chosen servants did in biblical times. They grew physically, mentally and spiritually (Exodus 2:10-11; Acts 7:20ff; 1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 1:8; 2:40, 52).

Indeed, all of God’s people are to grow from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)!  Are you growing in physical strength and health?  Are you maturing mentally?  Are you making progress spiritually, becoming less like your old sinful self and more like Jesus Christ?

Growth is Commanded

Yes, God calls His people to mental, social, emotional and spiritual growth. In fact, He demands it! As a believer in Christ God expects and requires you to grow in Christ (Ephesians 3:16-19; 4:15; Colossians 1:10; 1 Timothy 4:15; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).  In the New Testament, Paul tells us that “…we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, that is Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

As a matter of fact, the idea of perfection in the Bible has to do with completeness, arriving at the destination of wholesome fulfillment and holy maturity in Christ-likeness (Galatians 3:3ff; Philippians 3:12; James 1:4).

On the positive side, you can be assured that spiritual growth will bear a tremendous influence and have a great impact upon you (Proverbs 9:9; Matthew 12:34ff; Mark 7:21).

So, the bottom line is this: at minimum, God’s people are supposed to grow up. How much greater the requirement for godly leaders! What’s more, one of the common and significant traits of all leaders is that they are nearly always growing. To be a leader, it is necessary that you grow!

Growth is a choice

Normally a person grows mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, etc.  This kind of growth can be “accidental.” In other words, it just happens in the normal course of time. After a while one must make a conscious decision to mature any further.  Should I finish school? Should I go on to college or pursue advanced degrees?  Should I exercise and do strength building? Should I become more disciplined in life, become more competent in my field of interest, advance in my line of work, and so forth.  So, at some point growth and maturity is a choice.

Real leaders, especially spiritual leaders and godly church officers (deacons and elders), make a conscious choice to mature.  Maturity for the leader is intentional.  Leaders push themselves to grow in many areas of their lives. They intentionally set out for themselves goals with plans to achieve those goals.

Speaking generally about leadership, Paul B. Thornton in Be the Leader-Make the Difference writes:

Leaders with a continuous improvement mind-set have

  • A strong desire to improve
  • A commitment to candid self-assessment
  • A strong curiosity
  • An ability to learn from both success and failure
  • A non-defensive response to negative feedback
  • A willingness to experiment and try new approaches

Is your life in Christ, which encompasses everything about you, proactively seeking to grow and improve?  Is your life intentional, purposeful, goal-oriented or is it just riding on the winds and waves that life presents you?


If you are a church leader serving in Christ’s church, it is critical and imperative that you aim for Christi-likeness, and that means growing and maturing with intentionality.  This kind of growth is necessary, required, and commanded. But it is also a choice. A genuine godly leader will grow; maybe not consistently and in every way, but he will seek to make progress, discipline himself toward the ultimate goal of becoming complete in Jesus Christ so as to serve fully as a model to others, and as one equipped to serve others.

If you are in a leadership position in the local church, but you are not growing, then you should either repent and set out for growth or step out of the role. Otherwise, keep on pursuing the course of God’s high calling in your life.


D. Thomas Owsley




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The Ultimate Goal for Change in a Church

Sometimes leaders, spiritual or otherwise, seek change within a corporate entity because that fits their personality, or because change is presumed to be a sign of progress (while it may not always be), or because that’s what leaders are supposed to do, or because there is a new model approach to ministry.

There are men who believe that the first thing leaders should do upon newly arriving at the church is to shake up everything and disrupt the status quo.  Yet, change within the life of a local church should be weighed against Scripture while also considering the contributions and value of the church’s  past, its traditions, its current culture, the people’s gift mix and talents, resources, along with several other factors.

In a previous blog I noted the ultimate goal of a God-ordained ministry is:

to equip the saints to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12)

through the faithful exercise of their gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12),

in order to form Jesus Christ in the local community of God’s people through love (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21; 4:13; Col. 1:22-29;  1Thess. 3:11-13; 1 Tim. 1:5).  (I’m indebted to D. A. Carson’s books for this biblical insight)

Put another way, the primary objective for the local church leadership should be to form Jesus Christ in that local community so that the body becomes one new and mature man who lives in the unity of the faith (Eph. 4:13), in an intimate full-knowledge of Jesus that fosters a deep love for and full imitation of Christ (Eph. 4:13), and who lives in the truth that is spoken and expressed through love (Eph. 4:15)!

If this is not the ultimate purpose for change within the local church then perhaps trying to radically change or restructure, or “shake up the status quo,” of the church is not in the best interest of all concerned.


D. Thomas Owsley

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Filed under Change, Pastor & Church Relationship, The Church