Making Friends with Change


Jack Welch, the famous CEO of General Electric, said, "If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”  Welch said this in the context of organizational leadership, though I've heard it applied to the local church as well. In fact, Thom Rainer, in Autopsy of a Deceased Church [1], estimates that as many as 100,000 churches could be dying right now, due in part to their unwillingness to change their ministry methods. When a church is decidedly resistant to change, the accelerating rate of cultural change can only hasten their demise. Refusing to change can mean the end of the church you love. 

Lately, I've been contemplating how refusing to change can impact us on a personal level. How many of us know someone who has chosen estrangement from someone they love rather than consider a change of heart or a change of mind on some non-essential issue. Clearly, refusing to change can mean the end of a friendship. 

Change never comes easily, but the cost of refusing to change is something we can't afford. 

Jesus didn't advocate change for change sake, but when he said, "a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40, ESV), he normalized change as part of the discipleship process. If the goal of discipleship is to become like Jesus, then we're in for some Change with a capital-C! It behooves us, then, to not only tolerate change but to make friends with it. After all, if you're a follower of Jesus, then change is what you signed up for. 

It may be hard to admit that you've been selfish, manipulative, or stingy for much of your life and that you need to change. But who wants to pay the price in lost relationships and lost growth opportunities by refusing the needed change of heart? 

What if God uses external change to ignite this kind of internal change? What if the shifting sand at work or in your church is an opportunity to see your own heart in a whole new light? What if that unwelcome change in your work or marital status turns out to be an incubator for the kind of inward transformation God has been intending to produce in you for a long time?  

What if we could learn to view change not as a foe to guard against but as a friend to be welcomed?

Could we accelerate our progress toward the goal of becoming like Jesus? Might our churches enter a new season of fruitful disciple making? Given the possibilities, it only makes sense to reconsider our attitude toward change--especially the changes we complain about. Maybe the converse of Welch's maxim is true. Maybe when the rate of change on the inside exceeds the rate of change on the outside a new beginning is dawning. 


[1] Thom S. Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2014).