I recall a conversation years ago with a local pastor who had come to the sober realization that the church he was serving needed to be led through a transformation process. His words to me were simply: “Our church needs a new leader, and I hope it will be me!”
In one simple sentence, he identified two issues that are critical factors in congregational transformation: (1) transformation will not happen apart from capable leadership; and (2) if he wanted to lead this effort, he would have to first experience significant transformation himself.
As John Maxwell has stated, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” If you are ever around, or part of, a ministry that is making high impact, then you can count on the fact that there is a leader nearby. Whether you call them turnarounds, transformations or thriving churches, they simply don’t happen by accident—they happen on purpose. These churches are well led.
This is not to say that congregations themselves don’t bring significant contribution or barriers, as well. It is underscoring that churches that move forward in fulfilling their God-given contribution are most likely to do so with strong leader(s).
But what if you are a pastor of an existing church and you know, like my friend above, it needs fresh leadership … and you would like it to be you? Then the place to start is to welcome transformation in your own life that can bring about the needed change in being and doing to be that leader.
Now, this change is not abstract or mystical, but concrete and practical. You must become the change you seek in others. Instead of being a person who is calling others to live differently, you must model to them what living differently really looks like.
The values of your church need to be actual, not aspirational, in your life. You need to have the stories and narrative that point people to how they can live out what it means to be who God has called your church to be in its context. This, of course, is just another way of saying your behavior, how you act, must be consistent with the stories you tell and the bedrock of values you are leading from.
Robert E. Quinn wrote a masterful organization book called Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within. His thesis was simply stated as: “You will either go through deep change or slow death, and there is no option.” It would be a mistake to think he was simply indicating you must lead radical change in your church in order to find your way forward. No, what he was primarily arguing for was that leaders of organizations must go through deep change or the organizations they lead will go through slow death.
Perhaps your church needs transformation. If you want to be the person to lead it, then let the transformation start with you. The good news is that God is always ready to do a “new thing” (Isa. 43:18-19, NKJV). The question is, will you let Him start that in you so you can lead others in it?