It is now nearly 30 years since I attended my first Change Management workshop. I was attending because I was working in a troubled prison for young offenders and we had been appointed a change management consultant. The management team and trade union representatives went away and gathered for 2 weeks working through the challenges. I confess to immediately enjoying it. I returned from that workshop appointed as the Change Manager and so began several years of leading workshops for prison staff. Little did I know that it would be a theme for the remainder of my life both in prison, the church and the wider expression of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.
Change has not always been well received in the church world. ‘We’ve always done it this way,’ is a phrase which I have heard more than once and at times even pointing to scripture that says that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Yes he is but we are to be changed to be like him and at the same time to bring heaven to earth.
Rather than change being seen as something of an enemy it is actually our mandate. Our initiation into the family of followers of Jesus began with us being changed and should continue with us bringing change to the people in the world and the world in which we live. It is to be embraced and we can find so much to help us in the language of the bible. Redeem, return, rebuild, repent, recover, reconcile and so on.
As we have consistently seen the apostolic assignment is heaven on earth and we are to expand the influence of King Jesus throughout the earth. Rather than being an enemy or a interference, change is our assignment , our DNA, our modus operandi, our raison d’être. It is our great privilege to be the ‘ambassadors of Jesus Christ’ at a time when a world in constant change needs heaven on earth more than perhaps ever.
As I reflect back on that first excursion into change management I remember returning and talking to my pastor. I talked of the need in the church to have clarity of purpose and vision. I knew instinctively and intellectually that change belongs to us. The principles I was taught contained biblical principles although the methodology would need aligning. I was not as well received as I had hoped perhaps I was a little ahead of myself?
Every organisation on earth can find one point of change. Visional transition, missional transition, structural transition and cultural transition. It is inevitable, there is a such a pace of change and it is affecting us all. The church is no exception and perhaps its two greatest are related to shifting from gathering first to sending first and from church first to kingdom first. Don’t worry we will still gathering and have church but the emphasis needs to change.
As I have developed change and strategic management I have drawn on biblical principles to lead people and teams. Perhaps for me the most important is the overall perspective. Much of what I learned in the early days was to discover what was wrong and try to fix it with a strategy. It is a method which focuses too much on failure and weakness first. My preferred approach is to look at what is right and help the organisation to do it again. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:11 We have been changed (our testimony) to bring change (prophecy). Starting a change journey with the desire of heaven to see the testimonies repeated is a powerful starting point.
As I teach change management I know that it is something which christians should be the masters of.
We are after all ‘the sent ones’ sent to bring heaven to heaven and what greater change can there possibly be.